Transparency in photography

There’s a fascinating piece in the NY Times today — “Point, Shoot, Retouch and Label?” by Steven Erlanger –about French politician Valerie Boyer’s draft of a law requiring advertisements to carry a label if they contain images that have been digitally retouched. This is not a new discussion; publishing associations in the UK and elsewhere have talked about voluntary reform. Check out the consistently smart coverage in Jezebel. But it may be the first to push a law.

The article focuses on the issue of women’s body images and the dangers of falsified ideals, documenting various approaches to this debate, from hopes that “such a label might sensitize people to the fakery involved in most of the advertising images with which they’re bludgeoned” to the threat that “such a law would destroy photographic art.”

In this vein, a fashion photographer is quoted pointing out that all photography is a representation of reality through a lens that excludes as well as captures. Very smart and valid… but is this the generally accepted view that fashion magazine readers share? Based on a sample of my self, friends, students, sister, cousins…. No. However naively, most women still “buy” these false images.

An editor at Marie Claire declares the labels unnecessary because “Our readers are not idiots … Of course they’re all retouched.” You’ve got to almost admire her bravado, and the move to convince her readers with a magazine that so clearly respects their intelligence… I guess I’m an idiot, then, since despite my rhetorical training, I’d still love to be informed.

Check out Marie Claire’s edited editors:

Photoshop Disasters: Marie Claire

Photoshop Disasters: Marie Claire

At least, in the meantime, we have such wonderful sources as Jezebel and Photoshop Disasters and Photoshop of Horrors, and of course fun on YouTube:


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