The New York Times is being forced to examine their policy in regards to retouching on their images. Of course, they stand by the fact that manipulation of their news images "strictly forbidden.” But recently, they received backlash when the cover of their [style] magazine T had what many readers felt was a fashion model that looked 'shockingly thin' and 'underage.'
In response to the complaints, EIC Deborah Needleman issued a response:
Julia Nobis, the model, is a 20-year-old undergraduate studying medicine. We chose her because of her strong looks and the personality she is able to project. She is rather thin for my taste, as most models are, and I considered adding some fat to her with Photoshop, but decided that as it is her body, I’d let it be. Fashion photography involves a bit of fantasy, and often some edge, and while the bathing suits are strappy and have buckles, that is a far cry from bondage — either showing it or advocating it. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is racier and more explicit than these images."
"I am always aware and trying to not pick super-skinny models. In fact, in the pictures of her [we first saw] she was heavier, and then we shot after fashion month and she was super-skinny. But models are really skinny. I think part of it is the Times readership — it’s not necessarily a fashion audience. In real people’s eyes, models are really, really skinny."
Firstly, models are real people. Secondly, some "real" people are also thin, and we get just as offended when people call us "too skinny" as an overweight person would when being called "to fat." The 'too thin' complaint is tired. Fashion sells clothes. Clothes look better on thinner bodies. Also, saying the model looks "underage" is a pretty stupid observation which probably says more about the personal philosophies of the person making the complaint than the images themselves.
But, the interesting observation here is that the NY Times is a news organization, yet they hold their fashion magazine to a different set of rules. They considered adding fat to a model. And this can go both ways. You can add it or you can take it away, but the point remains the same. They have no problem altering the appearance of an individual to sell copies. Personally, I see this as pretty reasonable. To compete in a marketplace that sells 'fantasy,' you can't expect a fashion magazine from a major corporation to not retouch their images.
There is a much greater observation under the surface of all of this, though, and no one is really talking about it. If we are to decrease the amount of retouching in these sorts of images, what kinds of demands are put on the models? Many people already complain that they are already 'too skinny,' so what do they think will happen, realistically?
What do you think?