The folks over at Jezebel have been crusading about this for quite awhile now, and sometimes they hit a raw nerve. When they published a post about the Photoshopping of Jennifer Aniston, complete with undoctored photos from the same photo shoot from which a cover shot was taken, they received a “cease and desist” order from the agency which bizarrely claimed, among other things, that the original, undoctored photo was, in fact, doctored.
To its credit, Jezebel is fighting the agency arguing that the small, cropped image they are using is “fair use” because it is central to a legitimate news story. They’re also, of course, documenting the fight online.
Jessica Coen, the author of the post and Editor-in-Chief, summed up why they’re fighting so hard on this issue. She wrote in the linked post:
“Lord knows that I'm not perfect, that there are days when I simply do not like what I see in the mirror. And there are reasons for that that are deeply personal and reasons that are rooted in a youth spent immersed in these images. On those bad days, it's not easy to give myself a reality check, but I know it's all wrong, that it doesn't have to be this way. And if we don't make a fuss, if we don't scream and shout and pull out our hair every time we find more proof that we are being cruelly had — that's just another day that nothing changes. That's just another day that some young woman is force-fed a lie.She’s absolutely right—and fighting an uphill battle. But if it’s wrong for journalists to alter reality by manipulating news photos, is it any less wrong to alter photos to present an impossibly idealised and unrealistic version of “beauty”? Does the fact the latter is selling a product or lifestyle make it any more acceptable or ethical than a photo meant to tell a real-life story? And if the re-touched “beauty” photos make people feel bad about themselves because they can never live up to that image, doesn’t that add a layer of immorality to the act, too?
And that, too, is bullshit.”
This is a very touchy (re-touchy?) subject in the graphics industry. As professionals, our motivation is primarily to present beautiful images, but many of us draw an ethical line when it comes to altering reality (a couple years ago I even argued against re-touching personal photos). I believe there’s a difference between making a photo appear as good as possible, and altering it to change reality. I do the former, but try to avoid the latter. I wish more publishers had that same ethic.
I applaud Jezebel for fighting the good fight.
Top o’ the Hat to Twitter pal @paudecanela_nz for Re-Tweeting the link to the Jezebel post.