Getty Images Bans Photos with Altered Body Shapes

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Getty Images, one of the world’s largest suppliers of news and stock images for publication, has recently announced that it will no longer accept photos that misrepresent models and their bodies. This comes in response to a law recently passed in France that requires full disclosure as to whether an image has been manipulated with Photoshop, airbrushing or any other body-shaping or skin-smoothing techniques. The public justification for this in France is based in health and promoting positive body image. In fact, the new law requires French models to provide a medical certification that documents their health and body mass index (BMI) when applying for new work. In other words: they need a doctor’s note that states the model has sufficient body weight in order to make money.

Specifically, Getty Images sent out emails to contributing photographers asking that “you do not submit to us any creative content depicting models whose body shapes have been retouched to make them look thinner or larger.” Existing work isn’t slated for deletion, but going forward any new images that are ‘retouched’ in this way will not be accepted and are considered a breach of contributor agreements. This is significant in that Getty Images is the name you see in the photo credits for so many major publications. Their stock image database currently hosts over 80 million photos that serve every niche from news to food to fashion.

For the wold of beauty, fashion and modeling, a move towards more realistic views of the human body is a good thing. After generations of models being told they need to lose weight, or being branded a ‘Plus Model’ if they wear a dress size larger than 8, this is a step in a more realistic direction. It certainly makes good business sense to appeal to the mass market of clothing buyers, especially in the United States where the average women’s size ranges between 12 and 16. The larger issue is one of civil liberties: a photographer in US or other countries can have their Getty Images contract pulled due to a violation of a law which only exists in France. Worse, a model can be denied work for being ‘too skinny.’  And this should sound about the same as a model losing work for being ‘too fat.’ Neither is right in a legal or moral sense.

The reality is that fashion is an industry where the image needs, standards and ethics change faster than a model’s walk down the runway. What’s popular today is crucified tomorrow, and then the whole attitude reverses again two years later. This French law will in no way stop cosmetic manufacturers from filling your local Walmart and Walgreens with displays featuring slick, highly-retouched faces of beautiful models. Nor do we predict Victoria’s Secret with start printing unedited lingerie images in their catalogs any time soon. There’s just too much money at stake for them, and the public keeps voting with their dollars. Not to mention millions of over-filtered and highly unrealistic selfies being posted to Instagram every day that indicate the preferences of the up-and-coming generation. Like it or not, altered images are the only reality we’re likely to be flooded with into the foreseeable future.

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