Maura Murnane’s Photoshop Art, A Surreal Take On The Fashion Industry

Artist and photo-retoucher Maura Murnane hacks catalog shots of a large luxury brand and goes nuts with the Photoshop (more so than usual).

We’ve all witnessed the unfortunate consequences of overzealous Photoshopping, but in Maura Murnane‘s hands, it rises to a whole new level of bughouse crazy.


The fashion industry’s yen for perfection is made absurd.

Murnane, an artist who works by day as a photo retoucher, took models? catalog shots for a large, unnamed luxury brand, and went freaking berserk with the Photoshop, blurring skin and erasing garments and pasting body parts together in all the wrong places. The result is a series of spooky, Dali-esque images that barely resemble the originals, with models veering between faceless ghouls and hacked-up, 12-legged Barbie dolls. It’s the fashion industry’s yen for perfection, stretched to an absurd end.

But it’s also Murnane going a little nutso, after blotting out too many zits and smoothing over too many cottage-cheese thighs. As she writes on Rhizome:

The work I do allows your mind to wander, and reality becomes increasingly surreal, or just too real… After hours on the computer, you look at a friend and are distracted by the realization that their left eye is smaller than the right one, that they have chapped knuckles and abnormally blue veins. I have tried to be zen in my work, and failing at that, have made these pictures.

Murnane created the images by writing an action in Photoshop that takes retouch layers and places them in separate files (for example, “skin” in one file, “garments” in another). Then she combined and segregated the layers variously on the photos? original backgrounds. She describes the process for us in an email:

I’ve been experimenting with the action so it results in different kinds of images. Sometimes the “skin” and ‘clothing’ and “background” layers are merged, sometimes they are isolated. In a few of the images where you see cut-out body parts, I was doing more intensive skin work. In any case, what you see is the work that I did on the photo, not the photo itself.

Despite that the pictures are AWESOME — in a Gisele meets David Cronenberg kinda? way — they aren’t for sale, owing to some potential copyright issues. But who knows? Maybe there’s enough Photoshopping here to make it on the cover of W some day.

[Images courtesy of Maura Murnane; hat tip to Rhizome]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.