Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Should Photos Come With Warning Labels?

The brouhaha about uber-skinny models continues. Opponents believe Twiggy-like models are negatively influencing women and young girls by setting body standards for beauty that are difficult, if not impossible, to realize. Some opponents contend that manipulated images should be labeled as such.

The latest fracas involves Ralph Lauren's company and a model, Filippa Hamilton, who has been a long-time staple of Lauren's marketing and advertising campaigns. An absurd image of a Photoshop-induced, body-distorted Hamilton appeared on the cover of a Ralph Lauren catalog in Japan.

Here's the image causing the stir. Obviously, someone got carried away with the Liquefy Tool and whoever was responsible for approving the catalog's pictures didn't object.

Ms. Hamilton, in interviews, says her long-term contract with Ralph Lauren was terminated because, according to Hamilton, she was fired for being too fat.

Recently, Hamilton appeared on MSNBC to discuss her issues with the photo as well as her dispute with Ralph Lauren. You can view the video interview HERE.

Personally, I think the notion of warning labels on pretty girl pics are a crock of shite. There are many consumer-targeted images, as well as consumer products that include warning labels. Cigarettes are a good example. Anyone believe tons of smokers have quit because of the warning labels on a pack of smokes? Or plastered on advertisements?

Me neither.

Some warning labels are effective and appropriate, e.g., those that read, "Poison." And while cigarettes probably qualify as poison, it's a different kind of poison: One with addictive qualities as well one that ain't gonna kill you right away or make you dangerously sick in an immediate manner.

Same goes for warning labels on images. I don't think the incidence of anorexia are going to seriously decline because an image of a supermodel, one where she appears extraordinarily thin, comes with a label that reads, "This Image Has Been Altered and Manipulated for Aesthetic Reasons."

While I agree there's undo pressure on young girls in terms of body shape and beauty in general, i.e., it's the fashion industry that is setting unreal and unachievable standards for beauty, it seems to me it's up to childrens' parents to set them straight and help them understand what is beautiful about them, what is healthy and what is not.

I also understand that obesity is a major health problem, especially in America. But again, I defer to parents. Try monitoring what your kids are eating, how much they're eating, how much exercise they're getting and maybe think about preparing a healthy lunch or dinner for your kids, rather than taking them to the local MickeyD's next time they're hungry.

I'm as guilty as the next photographer of altering and manipulating images of the models I shoot. Sure, I'm trying to make them look as good as they can. I don't merely rely on post-production to do this. I use lighting, pose, makeup, hair, composition, and wardrobe and props to achieve this. I'll admit I also use post-processing techniques. But these techniques aren't the only trick I employ and I don't overly depend on post.

The image at the top is Penthouse Pet, Shawna Lenee. Rather than glamming her up, my client wanted her more natural, i.e., with the makeup and hair. Although Shawna is in her mid-twenties, they also wanted her looking like a late-teen. Besides the makeup, that direction impacted my lighting, as well as the poses and expressions. I don't think Shawna looks unachievable in terms of beauty and body shape. Yeah, those tits cost a few a bucks. But breast enhancements aren't completely out of the reach of most women these days. They've certainly become commonplace enough.

Here's a thought: Do you fantasize about spending the night with a young lady with a body-shape similar Shawna's? Or, do you dream of spending quality time with a woman with Twiggy's shape? Yeah, I know that some of you guys like 'em skinny. Maybe even real skinny. But most of you don't.

Shawna captured with a Canon 5D w/ 17-40 f/4 L glass. I used three, Profoto Acute2 heads: Two in front on either side, modified with medium umbrellas, and another, boomed up high on the left side and modified with a small, shoot-thru, umbrella. ISO 100, f/8 @ 125. MUA was Sarah.


lee said...

no they shouldnt come with warning labels. they just shouldnt promote bullshit false images.

BigV said...

I'm in the Sir-Mix-A-Lot crowd.

I feel it is a duty as a photographer to place your subject in the best light. I was never real big on retouching negatives and even more anti photoshop. Don't even get me started on Glamorshots.

Growing up we had Playboy. All heavy retouched images and they always seemed surreal to me. I always preferred the more raw images of other magazines.

Even your clients when they place an image on a DVD cover that has been heavily modified it leaves you wondering when you watch the movie as to when the girl on the cover is going to show up. I put that right up there with padded bras. False advertising :)

Maybe it is jut my age coming out. I just prefer the real world.

Ed Verosky said...

I'm in total agreement with you, Jimmy. And I think people are smart enough to know the difference between a real human figure and a highly distorted one. Thing is, it doesn't matter. "Real" isn't what many of these women think is beautiful anyway. It is already that distortion of reality and beauty that is sought after, not only in images, but in real life.

But yes, men, are generally more interested in a real woman, with certain proportions and curves than they are in waifs.

Bill Giles said...

I don't find the image in question at all attractive. I don't care for that kind of image manipulation, but I'm not the target market. It's interesting to look at the changes in the average American since 1960. We haven't gotten much taller, but we've gotten a lot heavier. I have always been ahead of the curve, never average.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you, although there is the need for someone to shake up thing to not fall into the ridiculous like the Ralph Lauren campaign, I feel that as commercial shooters we have a responsibility with the public too and that some post processing (like putting a tummy back in place) is good to a certain extent, but we shouldn´t abide to fall in to the ridiculous of the photos like the ones of RL.

And as you say the problem is that parents are quitting their responsibilities in large areas because it is easier to put the fault into the world around their children, like sex, guns, alcohol, tobacco and drugs, eating disorders are something the parents must be observant and they should be the ones to guide their children, but today it seems parents think the TV, magazines and internet will do the job they don´t want to do: educate their children.

I don´t participate in gigs where violence against women or unhealthy looking models are to be portrayed because I feel a responsibility to the people watching my photos, have I lost some good paying works? sure, but I can sleep at night nicely.

Besides I prefer curvy women :) like Eva Angelina as an example than a uber thin women :P.

I really hope you are having a fast recovery from your surgery my friend.

My best wishes!


jimmyd said...


Speaking of Eva Evangelina, I'm supposed to shoot her next week, altho there's a chance it might get rescheduled. But, as it stands right now, I'm booked to shoot her on Tuesday. I've shot her before. She's always fun to work with!

Anonymous said...

@Jimmy: How lucky :)! she is totally beautiful!! if you can tell her that she has a fan in El Salvador :D

BTW thanks for the comment in my photo it totally made my day!


WMS said...

Jimmy and others. The only way for this to end is for the customers of Ralph Loren and others who do the same thing is to Stop Buying The Products represented this way.


Anonymous said...

@WMS: Well I don´t buy those, nor other brands that have sweatshops that exploit people in the 3rd world for pennies ;)


WillT said...

Somewhat of an aside... but I was a little surprised to read that you used such a short lens to capture the image of Shawna.

jimmyd said...


Size doesn't always matter. ;-)