Photography Project Explores The Effect Of Filters On Young Women’s Self-Image

Published 1 year ago

We live in a time where people will put themselves into extremely dangerous situations just to get the perfect selfie. While that’s a major extreme, the need for external validation is still a very real subject that is gaining more and more attention with the prevalence of selfie culture.

Photographer, Barbara Asboth, began a passion project with the intention of trying to understand a young modern woman’s reliance on filters influenced by modern day society’s expectations of photography. Her projects aims to normalize realistic angles, filter free looks and acceptance within us of just the untouched details seen by the naked human eye.

As a 33 year old woman, Barbara, finds it really concerning on a societal level that so many women are dependent on these filters especially after the boom of Zoom after the pandemic where it became “normal to stare at your own mirrored face for hours picking apart every flaw literally”, she says. Her personal goal is to eradicate self-hating, negative comments about people’s appearances which tend to come from millennial and Gen Z women.

So, she began by inviting 12 brave women, half found online in advance and half that she literally found off the streets to take phone selfies of themselves and edit it as they wished. Meanwhile, Barbara photographed them too with her camera lens which she specifically chose as it closely mimics the angles and details seen by the human eye and used that as a template to compare their filtered photographs against her unretouched portrait.

More info:

Read more

The setup

Image credits: james-greenhalgh

Viewers are invited to consider the similarities and differences between how each woman prefers to portray herself (whether that’s using filters or not) and how an impartial stranger/photographer (aka me) sees them.⁠

I interviewed each woman about her personal experiences with selfies and whether her self-confidence was affected in any way by the wide availability of filters to enhance appearances

Image credits: james-greenhalgh

These interviews give a diverse and honest insight into the women’s individual experiences, which I thought was very eye opening.

Half of the women were found online in advance, and half of them I asked to come in off the streets of London on the shoot days!

Image credits: james-greenhalgh

The ladies I chose in advance seemed either passionate about self-love and acceptance, were heavy selfie takers/filter users, or admitted to struggling with their self-image and wanted to step outside their comfort zone. I wanted to represent a good range of all these facets of selfie culture through the photos.

Here are some of the interview quotes and fully unretouched portraits. The only thing I adjusted on the photos was the contrast and some tones to be true to life.

Megan, 26

Image credits: Barbara Asboth

“When you’re looking at people’s images, even though you know they’re their most perfect images, it’s still hard not to get influenced by what you see. I try to remind myself that you’re not seeing all the ones that were deleted. But it’s also hard when you think someone’s best is still 10x better than your best.” – Megan.

Laila, 29

Image credits: Barbara Asboth

“The only way I can represent myself in a comfortable way is when I’m in control. On social media, there is no personality and looks are the only way you can represent yourself.” – Laila.

Esther, 21

Image credits: Barbara Asboth

“Mostly, I just want to be okay with how I am, rather than how I am with a filter.” – Esther.

Kat, 27

Image credits: Barbara Asboth

“I’ve used some filters every now and then. It’s usually smoothing filters. Being in the photo industry, we tend to know what’s real and what’s not, so I have the knowledge that other people are doing it, and I know what I’m seeing isn’t always real.” – Kat.

Isabella, 25

Image credits:Barbara Asboth

“I grew up in the ballet world, so from a very young age, my friends and I had a very hyper-focused vision of body image. We’d look through magazines and talk about the dancers with their beautiful cheekbones and say, ‘if only we could change that about ourselves.’” – Isabella.

Ayumi, 30

Image credits: Barbara Asboth

“I do feel there’s an expectation to present yourself a certain way. The picture has to be good and it has to look like you’re having fun. It has definitely become a lot of work.” – Ayumi

Cheri, 43

Image credits: Barbara Asboth

“Most often other people’s selfies look good, but I wonder what’s been done to them. You see people in reality and they don’t look like that.” -Cheri.

Swathi, 35

Image credits: Barbara Asboth

“I don’t think I’m perfect, but I’ve accepted everything I’ve got.” – Swathi.

Alexandra, 31

Image credits: Barbara Asboth

“You can see all my imperfections here, which you can’t in the selfie, but this is my face. This is how I look. This is what I see in the mirror.” – Alexandra.

Ginger, 19

Image credits: Barbara Asboth

“There are unattainable standards that people are putting out and that’s kind of terrifying. I have body dysmorphia, so I can’t really register what I look like within my brain.” – Ginger.

Xin Yi, 21

Image credits: Barbara Asboth

“People have the right to change their own photos to feel how they want it to feel, even if it’s very different to the original.” – Xin Yi.

Rachel, 19

Image credits: Barbara Asboth

“Selfies are a very raw picture. I see many very beautiful girls who edit theirs. It seems kind of backwards. But I think they’re reaching for perfection while I’m just trying to be me.” – Rachel.

I must note that the project was made possible with the help of the FUJIFILM UK team

Image credits: james-greenhalgh

They allowed me to use of their studio in London at the House of Photography, provided an amazing medium format camera to use, and an assistant to capture BTS photos of the shoots. Thank you to the team for this.

Barbara has also mentioned that she is definitely interested in doing another project of this nature and that her next attempt will be an outdoor collection of women approached on the spot for a photograph. She went on to say that this is a passion project for her, noting it as a ‘labour of love’ and that she has no one to satisfy in terms of the result and is therefore “free to explore wherever inspiration takes me!”


Shanilou Perera

Shanilou has always loved reading and learning about the world we live in. While she enjoys fictional books and stories just as much, since childhood she was especially fascinated by encyclopaedias and strangely enough, self-help books. As a kid, she spent most of her time consuming as much knowledge as she could get her hands on and could always be found at the library. Now, she still enjoys finding out about all the amazing things that surround us in our day-to-day lives and is blessed to be able to write about them to share with the whole world as a profession.

Got wisdom to pour?



#photography, face filters, filter addictions, photography, photography project, selfie culture, unedited photography
Like deMilked on Facebook
Want more milk?
Hit like for a daily artshake!
Don't show this - I already like Demilked