August cover: Illustration vs Photoshop

Marie Claire South Africa is in the midst of an international media frenzy as readers and news outlets have tried to dissect our August cover.

Let’s break it down. The cover is completely original for three reasons:
1) it features Kate Middleton, who has famously refused to pose for magazine covers,
2) it is an illustration of Kate’s face, mirroring the original magazine covers of the ’50s and ’60s, but using modern technology, and so looks very real (we have been describing it as ‘hyper real’),
3) this illustration has been merged onto the figure of someone else (our chief copy editor, Nicci Collier) wearing a distinctly African Clive Rundle design.

As the cover clearly states, both the image on the cover, and the four subsequent illustrations inside the magazine, were fan art: a homage to the Duchess. The article accompanying this was not a biographical feature (as is the norm with cover stars) but rather a ‘behind the scenes’ article, detailing who the designers are, the ‘model’s’ story, and what our thought process was. It is all completely transparent and well-meaning.

We’re not denying that it’s cheeky: pushing the boundaries of a ‘normal’ magazine cover. It was our intention to create a cover that looked illustrated, which is why we have been accused of a ‘bad Photoshop’ job. Earlier versions of the illustration of Kate were actually returned to the designer as they looked too real.

The illustrator of the cover, Clive Kirk, has this to say, ‘Obviously Kate’s face was not simply pasted onto a model’s body. It is in fact a digital illustration created from reference supplied and changed according to specific instructions from Marie Claire’s creative team.’

‘Photoshop’ has become an umbrella term referring to ‘fixing’ photographs – from the acceptable (erasing a temporary pimple) to the dubious; getting rid of bumps, slimming some models and even, horribly, lightening others. ’Photoshop’ also refers to the software Adobe Photoshop, which can be used not only for ‘correcting’ or improving photographs but also for digital illustration.

 So yes, this cover was Photoshopped – but it is also so much more than that.

We were daring, we were bold, we were innovative, and straying from the norm has confused some and upset others.

Feel free to continue this discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #MCKate, and comment on this article.

Read more about our cover here:

Mail & Guardian
MediaSLUTZA