Photography student Peter DeVito started using Photoshop and other retouching programs six years ago to blur out his acne. Embarrassed by his skin, he wouldn’t post any natural photos to social media and would even ask friends to delete any photos they posted that showed his blemishes.
But after spending hours photoshopping the acne out of images of models for work, the 20-year-old college student started to wonder why it mattered.
“One day while I was working on the pictures, I realized there was no reason to be editing any of them,” DeVito tells PEOPLE. “I understood that I was doing it because it was my job, but I couldn’t come up with one reason as to why I was spending so much time to retouch pictures of myself, solely to post on social media.”
He stopped photoshopping pictures of himself in July, and in September, he posted the first image from a new photo series that aims to normalize acne.
“I’ve noticed a growing trend of body positivity posts on social media, but I felt there was a lack of visibility for those who struggle with acne,” DeVito says. “My work has always been centered around inclusivity, so I wanted to create something that would help empower more people.”
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The first image he posted was a close-up of his own face, with stickers that say retouch.
“Originally, I never planned on posing or posting any unretouched images of myself, but then I decided to just go for it.”
From there, the junior at the Fashion Institute of Technology had people reaching out to him on Instagram with model suggestions, and he’s shot several more people, including his mom. DeVito shared his photos on Instagram, and model and actress Cara Delevingne even reposted one.
“It was surreal,” DeVito says. “She’s someone who I aspire to photograph in the future, so I still can’t believe that she posted it.”
He plans to continue the series and expand it to include other skin conditions, and his dream is to shoot celebrities.
“We hold celebrities on pedestals, and I think showing unedited images of them would be very powerful,” DeVito says. “It would help break the illusion society has created and would remind a lot of people that they are human like the rest of us.”