Large Retail Store Bans Airbrushed Images

Large Retail Store Bans Airbrushed Images

It is one of those controversial subjects that has been covered many times before. Creatives, marketing directors, and consumers all fighting over whether or not we should be airbrushing photos of models used in advertising and the effect it has on our youth growing up viewing images of flawless unrealistic body shapes. One large retailer is finally putting their foot down announcing publicly that they will ban all airbrushed images and are asking other retailers to follow.

The retail giant, Debenhams, would not be a name too familiar with those here in North America, but to our U.K. readers it is one that is all too familiar. The store which has over 150 locations throughout the U.K and a handful in Ireland as well would be most similar to a Macy's here in the US. After hearing about countless studies that show young girls self esteem being crushed after looking at the perfect Photoshop altered images, Debenhams vowed to stop using the images in their stores and advertising.


Caryn Franklin, co-founder of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, says: "Fashion and beauty imagery that is honest, is absolutely crucial for all women to see. Retailers have the power to take a stance on digital manipulation, so, I'm delighted that Debenhams has taken the lead here and customer feedback will no doubt validate this important step."

In 2011 Britney Spears let airbrushed images from a Candie's shoot to be released along with the originals. In 2011 Britney Spears let airbrushed images from a Candie's shoot to be released along with the originals.

"Millions of pounds a year are spent by organisations retouching perfectly good images," says Sharon Webb, Head of Lingerie buying and design for Debenhams. "As a rule we only airbrush minor things like pigmentation or stray hair and rely on the natural beauty of models to make our product look great."

So what do you think about this move? Should other retailers follow the lead of Debenhams?

[Via DailyMail]

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I agree. Cast models who look like you need for advertising instead of turning unsuitable ones into cartoons. Both samples in this case are ridiculous.

I'd like to see it happen, but the fashion industry has never shown a serious commitment to showing realistic models, men or women. So I can't see them moving away from re-touching in a hurry either.

Jon McGuffin's picture

When the public decides to respond to putting "normal" people on the covers of their catalogs/magazines to sell clothes, the "Fashion Industry" will respond instantly. The public consumes what the public wants, and the fashion industry caters to those needs and is constantly looking for ways to put something in front of the consumer that they want to consume.

The fashion industry isn't selling drugs, people don't get addicted to retouched models on the front of magazines so please don't tell me the tail is wagging the dog here. Consumers want different choices, create a periodical featuring "average" looking models and "average" photography and see how that works for you.

The public consumes what the public can be convinced it wants. Understanding the difference is everything.

That great news, we don't need new laws, people can change the standards and always do, all the industry needs is to star promoting this new trend and make beautiful the real body again (like it always has)

Fashion photography is generally about selling two things:

1. Clothes, based on;
2. Aspiration.

To do this you put on your clothes on the optimum aspirational aesthetic for your market. No less.

I would venture that women don't buy clothes because they identify their own imperfect body types with that of the models. Rather, they are motivated to buy the clothes because they aspire to look more like the perfect models wearing them.

so, before this article I read one on here about how to crack a bottle to get a better pour for beer. that whole images was a complete composite for marketing purpose. 4-5 images all ps'd into one perfect image. what is the difference between that and airbrushing a model, they are both manipulative and deceiving.

Jorge Tamez's picture

Exactly. I think food and product (mostly food) photography is "stylized"/edited to worse extends than fashion photography.

Also, to the author: Stop calling retouching "Airbrushing"!!! Lol, That's so 15 years ago.

Jayson Carey's picture

a composited product image doesn't contribute people with low self-esteem having a poor image of themselves (unless you're another product photographer :p ). Product/food images are designed to be enticing and get you to buy the products. fashion/beauty images cause those with a poor self-image to feel even more inferior. that's a huge difference. The article states that this is the reason they won't re-touch images anymore.

Exactly Jayson, they are designed to be inciting. They are designed to attract you to the food, over eat, indulge, over spend, eat eat eat. Does that not lead to the USA's ever growing obesity problem. Maybe that is where the issue lies. Maybe the poor self image comes from overeating or not eating healthy. Either way, its an image, it's falsified, it's the same whether it's a person or an inanimate object.

Maybe just maybe if we didn't herd ourselves so much, and try to look/be like the people on the cover of a magazine, we wouldn't have this growing lack of self worth epidemic. Maybe if we concentrated on being who we are, and not someone else this place would be just a bit better. The problem does not within the falsification of bodies and objects in photo's, but rather with the weak mind of people who cannot decipher fantasy from reality.

As for my standpoint on the subject, I do not agree with the falsification of any image when it comes to print media. I think it is extremely unethical. Whether it's on the front of vanity fair, or buried 20 pages deep in the NYT. When I shoot food, it doesn't get touched, it doesn't have glue for milk, I don't take 5 images of one product to make the perfect enticing image. I check my surroundings, bring in the proper equipment, clean the plate, place the food, and take a picture to my best ability. People don't like it, don't hire me, but that's how I shoot.

True but does manipulating images of food/drink effect peoples self esteem?

Sure can. It makes them want to eat more, therefore causing obesity, causing what society deems to be an "unacceptable" body style, therefore causing low self esteem.

Do i actually think it does, no. what i think causes low self esteem is a terrible society that beats down the important qualities in a person. really, should your body style have any effect on how society views you. it's a combination of a weak mind and elitist society.

Well, I think it's more manipulative in the way that it portrays drinking beer as this sort of classy, "smooth" experience when, in reality, it's usually the opposite! It's manipulative, but just in a different way. When you airbrush for something like food or beer, you're selling the experience you want people to have. When you airbrush enough models, you're basically showcasing what you believe to be an ideal that you're really stressing that people should by into.

My belief is that stories like this indicate a growing contention between the materialistic and artistic views of photography. One the one hand, the purpose of these photos is simply the sale of clothing. On the other hand, there is an increasing demand by viewers for what they perceive as an philosophically pure representation of "reality." These two intentions constitute motivations that are completely at odds with one another.

The academic painters, up until the 1800s, were taught to "draw what you see, not what you know (or imagine)." This meant that a good draftsman was expected to render his subject in such a way that it appeared exactly as he directly perceived it regardless of how he imagined it should look like. Ideologically, this forced painters to search for the best angles on their subjects and also to be creative in terms of decisions about what to show and what not to show, how to use lighting and shadow effects, and compositional instruments to increase the direct aesthetic appearance of an otherwise imperfect subject matter.

Commercial photographers, unlike the academic painters, have a history of attempting to "represent what they imagine instead of what they see." This means that they rarely take the years of time necessary to learn to directly perceive the best angles and lighting/composition for subject matter. Instead, they choose haphazard angles and lighting/compositional scenarios that often bring out aesthetic flaws in the subject. Then, they attempt to make up for these mistakes with retouching in post.

Unfortunately, the only way that photographers can become more like the academic painters of the past is to adopt their ways of perception. This means that photographers must learn to approach subject matter as if retouching were not an option at all. However, this creates a problem when working in commercial photography because the ultimate goal is not to create art but to sell clothes and make advertisements. Clients are going to have to learn to start treating photography more like an art and less like a materialistic enterprise if they want to simultaneously represent the "truth" while still creating aesthetically pleasing imagery. At this point in time, clients are still more interested in quick low budget photo shoots with unqualified photographers, so I don't have much hope that they will demand more of an artistic approach at any time in the near future. This means that the problems associated with the conflict between materialist and artistic approaches towards subject matter will probably continue for some time to come.

Very well said. Really great insight. Cheers! makes me want to practice the 1800's painters approach!