Is Getty doing enough to combat photoshopped images?

Getty Images, one of the world’s principal suppliers of stock photography, has announced in the last week that it will no longer be accepting any pictures that have been edited or photoshopped to change the shape of a female model’s body.

In a statement published on their website and released via email to their contributors, Getty announced that from 1st October 2017, “any creative content depicting models whose body shapes have been retouched to make them look thinner or larger” would no longer be deemed acceptable for stock use.

But has Getty’s decision been taken from a moral perspective, or simply to shield themselves from hefty fines by the French government? This move was announced during Paris Fashion Week, and on the same day as new French legislative procedure, asserting that advertising agencies will be liable for fines of up to €37,500 euros unless it is publicly stated that a photo has been digitally enhanced with the indicative warning of “photographie retouchée”.

Following the rise of body-positivity activism in recent years, the use of Photoshop in the world of fashion photography has been widely debated. Just a few weeks ago, Emily Ratajkowski, an American actress and model, hit out at the French fashion magazine Madame Figaro when it edited the shape of her lips and breasts for a cover story, taking to her personal Instagram account to express her dismay at the way both her body and face had been altered.

“We all have insecurities about the things that make us different from a typical ideal of beauty” she wrote. “I hope the fashion industry will finally learn to stop trying to stifle the things that make us unique and instead begin to celebrate individuality”.

By acknowledging its responsibility to ensure the circulation of genuine material, Getty’s decision marks a change in public perception and general attitudes towards retouched images. For the generations who have grown up under the influence of beauty magazines where acne, stretchmarks and unwanted curves have simply vanished with the use of editing software, many will deem it refreshing that a global company has finally taken action against idealistic perceptions of body image.

In a further statement released to i-D, a spokesperson for the company highlighted that, in recent years, “Getty Images has made a concerted effort to change the way women and other marginalised communities are represented in media and advertising”.

However, not everyone will regard Getty’s new image requirements as a total triumph for body image and diversity. It is worth noting that in their original statement released by the company, Getty also specified that “other changes made to models like a change of hair colour, nose shape, retouching of skin or blemishes, etc. are outside the scope of this new law, and are therefore still acceptable”. With the ability to still completely modify a person’s skin tone, it would seem that there is still a large scope for discrimination in the media industry and its perceived standards of beauty.

Moreover, much of the commentary surrounding Getty’s new policy has focused predominantly on the editing of female models’ bodies, thus overlooking the intense pressures often felt in male-dominated fitness industries to pertain to larger, muscular physiques.

Getty certainly appear to be taking a step in the right direction with their new photography submission policy. Change needs to start somewhere, and as the first company to introduce such a rule, the move should be rightly applauded. However, it is only right that these changes in policy should extend to all genders and ethnic groups; body dysmorphia is a universal issue and not solely a female problem. In the meantime, we can only hope that more countries follow France’s influence by introducing similar legislation and help lead the way to reduce the unrealistic beauty standards that are projected into society by the media.

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