Photo Real – Molly Crabapple on Photoshop, Feminism, and Truth
Two weeks ago, Jezebel published un-retouched outtakes of Lady Gaga’s Versace campaign.
Without Photoshop, Gaga’s wig was more wig-like, her makeup flat beige, but she was the same skinny, strong-nosed chameleon that Stephani Germanotta has always been. The outtakes were not interesting but showing celebrities without Photoshop is Jezebel’s brand.
Jezebel exploded in popularity in 2007 by offering a $10,000 bounty for originals of Faith Hill’s Redbook cover. The raw photos proved the magazine had liquefied the star’s waist, softened her nasiolabial folds, and brutalized her elbow into a bendy tube. This January, with more controversy, Jezebel paid another $10,000 for the originals of Lena Dunham’sVogue cover shoot. Those revealed only a tidied dress.
Jezebel’s is a feminism that seeks its scapegoat in altered images. To refrain from Photoshop is girl-positive marketing gold. Dove Campaign for Real Beauty delights itself by putting out fake filters that chide retouchers. Magazines sign “No Photoshop” pledges. Clothing companies crow that they’ve never taken a clone-stamp to their models’ thighs.
To these feminists, Photoshop is to blame to unrealistic body standards, poor self-esteem, and anorexia in teenage girls. The campaign against Photoshop is the perfect cause for white, middle-class women whose primary problem is feeling their bodies do not match an increasingly surreal media ideal.
Photoshop, the belief goes, takes a true record of a moment, and turns it into an oppressive lie.
But fuck Photoshop. Photos are already lies.
Today, in the wake of the shittiest storm New York has ever seen, Manhattan’s shittiest dive bar is shuttering its doors for good. St. Jerome’s was a horrible and fantastic place, a peerless dump in the belly of the Lower East Side where the author of this article used to DJ and bartend and Lady Gaga shook her ass as a go-go dancer before she turned into whatever it is that she is now. It was also a place with its own dedicated drug room, and an after-hours scene that had to be witnessed to be believed. So before it turns into another exposed-brick artisanal kombucha spot, here’s a brief history of St. Jerome’s.
Lady Starlight gogo dancing. She is now the opening DJ for Lady Gaga’s Russian and South American tours.
How much cocaine went into St. Jerome’s? Like, if you had to declare blow on your taxes, what would it all add up to over the five-plus years that little coke den was rotting away in the LES while all the decent real estate became condos? Imagine that many little baggies. If you cut them all open, poured them out on the bar, dusted the floor, made spin art in the DJ booth, heaped it onto those tipsy tables, and let the excess fill the tears of the leather banquettes, would it be enough to cover the stench of cigarettes, hairspray, and broken dreams?
St. Jerome’s was roughly the size of your friend’s shitty fifth floor studio walkup. The place was absolutely packed if 15 people showed up. There were two bathrooms, one of which was handicapped and unofficially designated for drugs. At some point the toilet in there broke, turning it into a filthy room with smooth, level surfaces that served no purpose aside from being a dark hole to snort things in. Still, when you came out there would be a line of people waiting.
When the line got too long, Luc, the bartender, would cut the music and bang on the wall, “ALL THE COKEHEADS IN THE BATHROOM FINISH UP. PEOPLE GOTTA PISS.” Or fuck, or whatever.
After hours at St. Jerome’s.
The best time to come to St. Jerome’s was at 4 AM when you and all your other really accomplished and amazingly talented artist friends had just finished stripping or bartending somewhere else. The register couldn’t report any sale after 4 AM so you’d toss the bartender your hard-earned 20 and have at it. Then you’d watch as your friends morphed into machines that could turn trace amounts of cocaine into an unlimited supply of bullshit.