I hate editing, and “hate” is a strong word.
I used to spend so many hours before, during, and after school editing pictures when I was first introduced to photography. Tedious, but I loved making layers and clicking on the little “eye” icon on PhotoShop to see how powerful the most recent layer is compared to the first. It was like magic. I still do that now when I hold onto a particular picture on Instagram and VSCO after some editing. I would tap on it multiple of times to see a mock “before” and “after” picture.
I used to take and edit pictures of inanimate objects and landscapes. I avoided portraits, especially self- portraits. Now, as a blogger who takes pictures of herself and sometimes edits them, I loathe editing.
I thought I hated the process because I am not good at it. While that is very much true, I realized my hatred stemmed from something much more personal. It was not the time that I minded nor my lack of skills – I am not afraid of researching, learning, and practicing.
I hate editing because I am in constant battle with the ideals of beauty while doing it.
It is not a new phenomena: white is beauty – within many cultures, including mine.
Growing up Vietnamese-American, I have always struggled with the clashes of Western and Eastern values and beliefs. One of those beliefs was beauty. I know damn well that beauty is a social construct, but sometimes, I fall into its trap. Ingrained in my subconscious, I was encouraged to use bleaching creams. I was told to wear foundation that was way too light for my skin tone. I was mistaken for other Asian ethnicities because my skin was considered too dark for a Vietnamese gal.
For that reason, I did not feel beautiful before. I did not feel Vietnamese before. I did not feel like a beautiful Vietnamese gal that I am. I used bleaching creams. I wore foundation that was probably 3 shades too light. I scrubbed my face until it looked “Vietnamese” – whatever that even means.
Sometimes, while editing, I catch myself brightening my skin too much. I use the curve feature far too generously. I dodge my skin a bit much. I would literally take the warmth color out of my skin tone until I could not recognize myself anymore.
It was a shameful practice. From not looking Vietnamese “enough” to not looking Vietnamese at all, I was so confused.
Although I am so proud to be Vietnamese and to identify with its rich culture, I am not proud of its beauty standards. I hate editing because I am reminded of them.
Today, I edited the picture above and although it is not the best in terms of editing, I am so proud of it because my skin looks “yellow” as it should. I am yellow – not white.