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New York Times details photo editing policy for fashion magazine

By dpreview staff on May 20, 2013 at 22:40 GMT

A fashion spread in the latest issue of the New York Times' monthly style magazine, 'T' has led to an interesting discussion about the newspaper's editorial policy on photo retouching. While New York Times editors strictly forbid any image manipulation beyond, 'minor color-toning and brightness for production purposes' in news stories, retouches and removal of blemishes are allowed in the style magazine's fashion photography.

This New York Timess T magazine cover image has sparked a discussion over the role of photo retouching in an news-branded publication. Click for a link to the online version of the magazine.

This all came to light when New York Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, blogged about reader complaints that the issue's cover model was, among other things, 'too skinny', promoting an unhealthy body image. Sullivan contacted T magazine editor, Deborah Needleman and got this response: 'She is rather thin for my taste...and I considered adding some fat to her with Photoshop'. The response drew rebukes not only from readers, but New York Times journalist Jonathan Schwartz responded via his Twitter feed that her comment was, 'jaw-dropping'.

In defending this exception to journalistic norms, New York Times editors argue that readers accept that fashion photography is about fantasy and do not bring to it the same expectations as they would for a news story. Yet, as Sullivan rightly points out, T magazine is still an, 'editorial product...produced by journalists who are a part of the newsroom structure'.

Does a newspaper risk credibility by allowing retouching on editorially-branded content? Or does the very nature of fashion photography merit an exception in a news organization? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Comments

Total comments: 53
Digitall
By Digitall (6 months ago)

Some country's say that models who have a body mass index (BMI) - adopted by the World Health Organization for the calculation of the optimal weight of each individual - less than 18 kg(39lb 10.931oz) / m², were forbidden to parade at the fashion events. I doubt that this model fits into these rules. The fashion world is a machine for making dreams, that too much influence on our youth, and helps create stereotypes sometimes wrong, with consequences on health as a general context. And Photoshop is the best anti-aging cream of the world.

0 upvotes
Pablo4
By Pablo4 (10 months ago)

one-eyed Illuminati symbolism everywhere...

0 upvotes
Franka T.L.
By Franka T.L. (10 months ago)

A proper fashion shoot need not be one photoshopped to the bone. If they can't even get those shoot right, then perhaps they should think about changing to a better production team instead of trying to Photoshop and deceive

0 upvotes
mike earussi
By mike earussi (10 months ago)

Actually, I thought she was a manikin.

0 upvotes
rottenbull
By rottenbull (10 months ago)

Fashion is all about perfection.This is the very nature of fashion,created by big designers not the supporting media.Their vision of beauty always will be different of reality.Having said that,and knowing humans will be never flawless,retouching is the only way to achieve the vision.Best way to think about it like half way between digital art and photography. Imo

2 upvotes
bboucher1
By bboucher1 (11 months ago)

Pushing the possibilities offered by technology, i wonder why we still need photography in this case tto capture the reflected light on a subject... Why not skip this part (costs and efforts of a photo shoot) and create models, their environment, clothing and call it a piece of graphic art ?

Photography could then be used to show the "reality" but i understand that the distinction is becoming harder and harder to make...

0 upvotes
SirSeth
By SirSeth (11 months ago)

Living a life well comprehened and rightly conjectured is a fading art. Most people exist by impluse. No, they don't give mind to what is done to create the images they see in pictures, and even correcting their "information" doesn't necessarily bring understanding or change to their perceptions--instead they act like they have been cheated. In my opinion, advertising is largely consumer driven--so I argue that skinny sells because skinny is idealized and photographers who get flack over their editing should shoot back with a pretty strong dose of "why don't you think critically about your world rather than cast blame on others for your own naivety.

So I'm quite opinionated on this one. I do also see the other side where young girls are led to unhealthy obsessions about themselves as they grasp for meaning. It's a complicated issue.

0 upvotes
webrunner5
By webrunner5 (11 months ago)

Wow, that women in the picture looks like a Crack Whore. I would have been out of business if I tried to sell a client a picture like that years ago. Progress lol.

2 upvotes
KodaChrome25
By KodaChrome25 (11 months ago)

Put your mug up. Let's see if you look like a jackass.

0 upvotes
vinhdlp
By vinhdlp (11 months ago)

I really find this style of fashion but also normal, because some journalists hands up to the problem

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 34 seconds after posting
1 upvote
B1ackhat
By B1ackhat (10 months ago)

Bulls**t. "Heroin chic" was all the rage in the 90s.

0 upvotes
Paul Guba
By Paul Guba (11 months ago)

Fashion in general is out of touch with reality. I do not believe that the average person who looks at an editorial or commercial fashion image filters their thought with the idea that it is fantasy. Photographic images are culturally viewed as reality based. There is nothing in the images shown here from time that is indicative of fantasy.

Anyone who spends anytime around the fashion industry know how inherently unhealthy it is physically, mentally, spiritually. It is simply about driving dollars through the door without conscious or acceptance of any long term effects it has. Not satisfied with 51% of the population it now markets increasingly to the male population with similar effects.

0 upvotes
wansai
By wansai (11 months ago)

Yes, because people REALLY want to pay or spend money on items where fat people are wearing the clothes. You know, when I buy a men's magazine, I expect to see well groomed, well presented, chisel featured, well built individuals. I'm not going to pay cash to see fat men with dirty white T-shirts with beer stains.

Why is there even an argument about "skinny". If "fat" sold, they'd present fat. People don't want to see fat, not skinny people, not average weight ppl, not fat people.

1 upvote
cinemascope
By cinemascope (11 months ago)

i spent a week once sharing an apartment with two skinny russian models. they would eat popcorn for lunch or just fry whatever was in the fridge at 1am and then leave the whole place up in smoke. eating was like a second thought...
btw the image above looks like its from some trailer park beaten up wife interview... but to each his own...

0 upvotes
JakeB
By JakeB (11 months ago)

Tell use more about your time living with the Russian models.

Surely it wasn't all just popcorn and late-night fridge raids?

0 upvotes
chj
By chj (11 months ago)

lol, photoshopping fashion is the least of the Times' crimes. How about being a totally biased bleeding heart liberal rag that never tells the full story?

1 upvote
RickBuddy
By RickBuddy (11 months ago)

We can put a quarter inch of pancake on her face, brush on some darker shades to highlight her jawbones, decorate her eyes like she's an Egyptian pharaoh, squeeze her into a corset, add a push-up bra, fit her into 8-inch stilettos -- but oh my god, NO! don't touch that photoshop dial.

This is an exercise in the absurd.

Comment edited 20 seconds after posting
5 upvotes
EssexAsh
By EssexAsh (11 months ago)

i'm not too sure about the "London look" anymore, how about the "crack using concentration camp survivor" look.

Whatever floats your boat.

4 upvotes
plasnu
By plasnu (11 months ago)

Arguably, any journalistic images have never been real. They are nothing but convenient visual tools to push publishers opinions. Journalists ONLY use the images that will support their opinion.

Now NYT is trying to confirm "our photo journalistic images are real, because those images are not digitally altered.".

Who cares.

1 upvote
anoplogaster
By anoplogaster (11 months ago)

I don't like famished models and the image itself is not my style.

But I do not see a problem with the girl or women in this picture.
I don't know her BMI and a image isn't a good way to determine this.
I think erveryone will agree with me, she isn't extrem famished on the picture.

But I have a problem with the Discussion per se.
In a Country where the Fattest People in the World live a Discussion about thin people is stupid.
In the USA 64.5% have a BMI over 25 and only 1.8% a BMI under 18.5.

1 upvote
rfsIII
By rfsIII (11 months ago)

There are lots of girls who are naturally skinny and tall with pipe-cleaner arms and legs and flat tummies. You can't hate them for it, they'll gain weight in their 20s and 30s and that will be that. What's the big issue? It's not a conspiracy, it's biology
And from my reading it sounds like the NYT only allows normal retouching in their style section—zits and boogers—but not much more. So again what's the big deal?
And in answer to IvanM, the reason that the fashion industry has settled on a certain look is because it sells clothes. They're selling a dream of looking better. If they could move more shmattas by putting them on kangaroos, they would. Capitalism may be evil, but it's not ideological.

Comment edited 50 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
DenWil
By DenWil (11 months ago)

In a society where half the people are clinically obese, finding someone or even millions who claim this girl is too thin would be a snap. People resent what they are not.

Unfortunately it is the girls who are size 4 or smaller who seem to eat responsibly and hit the gym for regular exercise - girls who look fantastic. I've trained at the University of Arizona REC for the past two years and numerous tall, sub size 4 girls are in there training alongside the frat boys every day.

Go to any open model call in NY or LA - or heck a swim meet- and it is clear all lean bodies are not computer generated. Other than having a better face than many, the build of the model on the Times cover (as much as can be seen) is quite common among college girls. Not predominate by any means but not the least bit unusual.

I believe folks like to assume retouching is responsible for every great looking model to alleviate their own visual inadequacy. Exercise and diet is too hard.

2 upvotes
Archer66
By Archer66 (11 months ago)

Camera news ??

0 upvotes
IvanM
By IvanM (11 months ago)

I find it interesting how the fashion industry has chosen a certain 'look' for their norm. I never see curvy or short models...whats wrong with 'normal' weight..do the dresses hang better only because they are made for ultra thin tall models? If so why would I want to buy a dress that will look terrible on a normal, shorter frame? Surely a fashion designer should be able to design for all shapes and sizes?

I find it very strange that the fashion industry thinks that I will look at a dress on an impossibly thin and underage model and somehow transpose that look onto a older normal looking body and think mmm that will look good on my middle age wife??

Comment edited 39 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
fad
By fad (11 months ago)

It's the way that reality is retouched and distorted in the news and editorial parts of the Times that I find more predictable and disturbing.

We met a young woman at a party yesterday who was conspicuously well-dressed. She's from Dallas and plans to revolutionize the fashion industry, in part by moving from the fantasty of women's sizes 4-6-8 (what nonsense) to actual measurements.

So I asked my wife (an accomplished professional and a trained intellectual) if she agreed. I could sense instantly that her heart and mind were in conflict between two completely irreconcilable ideas.

Women will never think like us, but there is hope:

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/05/19/frack-chic/

http://www.thegloss.com/2013/05/16/fashion/fatkinis-by-gabifresh-and-swimsuitsforall-bikinis-for-plus-size-women/

1 upvote
jrconner
By jrconner (11 months ago)

I think the NYT could handle this with a prominent disclaimer: "Many, perhaps all, of the photographic images in this fashion magazine have been retouched, sometimes lightly, sometimes with a heavier hand, sometimes in ways that would not be permissible in the New York Times newspaper. A fashion magazine presents an ideal, not reality."

3 upvotes
daMatrix
By daMatrix (11 months ago)

For what I see the model is as she is and eats well.
It is an insult to slim women that they have to justify their proportions over and over again to the main public....

2 upvotes
plevyadophy
By plevyadophy (11 months ago)

Well, I have seen more fat on a greasy chip!!

And SLIM women do not have to justify anything ............... it's the horrid skeletal looking women who arouse questions; and the women in this picture is sickly thin, NOT slim.

0 upvotes
rfsIII
By rfsIII (11 months ago)

You have obviously not been around high school students much. As they grow their body fat goes nuts. There's more, there's less, suddenly they have fat on their back, then it's their abdomen, then they have no fat at all, and it's all about physical maturation. This girl is probably 16 and that's just how she looks right now. If you saw her six months ago or six months from now her body fat percentage would be completely different.

1 upvote
daMatrix
By daMatrix (11 months ago)

Right on and then there is also a difference in how fast or slow on reaches the chubby 'Rubens'phase. But some may eat what they want but never get into size 40+ ever.

Living in Europe gave me a realistic view on bodymass.

0 upvotes
aris14
By aris14 (11 months ago)

Blame, if any, is not upon mags and dailys, but in the people buying them.
Every buy is practically a "vote of confidence" to the content they host in their pages. No matter if it is plain text or photo or both.
As a matter in fact we buy the reality we chose therefore we like to perceive.

0 upvotes
clicstudio
By clicstudio (11 months ago)

As a professional photographer who solely shoots women, I find fashion images to portrait not a Fantasy, but a fake reality.
The cover reads "Hot Summer" but then you see a desaturated, anorexic, pale, wet haired model with 2 pounds of eye makeup and a black swimsuit who looks like she just drowned and came back to life...
Summer and hot are supposed to be vibrant and happy... The opposite of this cover.
Why does fashion photography have to be about
Making women look like androids?
If the editor wants to put some fat into this girl, why not hire a normal looking model instead?
Retouching is part of my everyday life as well. I love creating the fantasy of the perfect woman, but always adding to their own femininity and beauty.
This cover, photoshopped or not, is, in my humble opinion, sad and lifeless.

8 upvotes
Teila Day
By Teila Day (11 months ago)

Thin models sell. Average sized models do not appeal to the typical (fashion) target audience. Also, what the model has on would not look as good on a *non* lithe-sized model, just like many pull over "stretchy" or tube dresses look horrible on very thin models.

I find the cover (like most fashion ads) boring, but unlike most fashion ads- I don't find this cover to be ridiculous.

I couldn't care less if she had photoshopped 50lb of lard onto the girl- far too many important things in life to worry about as opposed to some mag slathering poundage onto some model via software.

3 upvotes
draschan
By draschan (11 months ago)

thanks for the distinction between false reality and fantasy. (and it also seems to me that this is lifeless and anorexic) this woman looks like she overdosed and drowned :-)

1 upvote
SuperAchromat
By SuperAchromat (11 months ago)

This P.C. policy of attacks on thin people in advertising must have been conceived of by fat people. Some people are naturally thin and if it's so unhealthy, how come fat people die of heart attacks left and right and skinny rats live twice as long as regular ones? :)

9 upvotes
vFunct
By vFunct (11 months ago)

T is a fashion magazine. It is expected to follow the rules of fashion, not journalism.

Photoshopping fantasy editorials in T is fine.

2 upvotes
Timmbits
By Timmbits (11 months ago)

fashion models are basically coat-hangers.

if someone is frustrated about her own body image, she should not be letting that out on others, or using the modeling industry as her political platform.

4 upvotes
amf1932
By amf1932 (11 months ago)

As a photo retoucher for many years, working with N.Y. ad agencies, and way before Photoshop was invented, we always had to correct skin blemishes, or any other distortions to make a model look as beautiful as possible. The corrections we made had to be approved by the higher ups before publication. This was and will still be continued no matter what the outcome of this article.
I definitely approve of any or all retouching to enhance any photo, and it makes me sick that a subject such as this can cause such a commotion.

Comment edited 41 seconds after posting
5 upvotes
Amadou Diallo
By Amadou Diallo (11 months ago)

The issue isn't about the merits of retouching. The question is whether it's appropriate when done under the banner of a news organization.

0 upvotes
vFunct
By vFunct (11 months ago)

It's under the banner of T magazine, which is distinct from the newspaper.

3 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (11 months ago)

That T style "magazine" is really just an excuse to sell advert space. It's not like it's Vogue or some serious fashion rag.

In other news, the NYTimes employs some jaw droppingly stupid editors.

0 upvotes
Timmbits
By Timmbits (11 months ago)

seriously??? have you picked up an issue lately? half the pages are ads! it's the whole purpose of such "rags", vogue included, to turn a profit.

0 upvotes
vFunct
By vFunct (11 months ago)

Also, people BUY Vogue for the ads. There is very little content in it.

1 upvote
Gionni Dorelli
By Gionni Dorelli (11 months ago)

I have been working for various issues of Vogue and similar high end magazines for years.
There is one rule for all:
The less Ads they are able to collect for given issue, the thinner the editorial content and the magazine itself will be.
Sometime when they do not collect enough Ads, they withdrawn some fashion editorials (already produced).
Ads are vital to the existence of publications and Vogue is not exception.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 10 minutes after posting
1 upvote
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (11 months ago)

vFunct:

Of course Vogue lives by adds, but it has editorial content too.

And the ads in Vogue are more interesting than this NYTimes thing.

0 upvotes
Charles2
By Charles2 (11 months ago)

In the film days, did newspaper darkroom staff routinely dodge and burn?

In the digital era, if you forbid any change to a camera JPG, you choose a style set by the manufacturer - Olympus colors, Nikon exposure, or whatever.

0 upvotes
Mescalamba
By Mescalamba (11 months ago)

If it was Vogue, you can be sure there was plenty of post-production even in film days. In regular newspapers, hardly, they were usually happy if photo had reasonable image quality. :D

0 upvotes
joe6pack
By joe6pack (11 months ago)

'She is rather thin for my taste...and I considered adding some fat to her with Photoshop'

Why did she hire the model in the first place???

2 upvotes
Mescalamba
By Mescalamba (11 months ago)

That comes from "being used to". In this case people which takes photos for this kind of magazines are used to do it with certain category of models. People which make dresses for them too. And last but not least, post-processers too.

There are criteria which didnt change much in past decades and according to them she was choosed to be model.

Plus I doubt that editor hired her. There are other people for that too. :D

Its whole system that goes on and on in its rails..

0 upvotes
Timmbits
By Timmbits (11 months ago)

it was just a rebuttal. the reader was supposed to understand that she wasn't slimmed and trimmed by PS. the outcry by the reader was obviously because she's not comfortable with her own body image, and transposes those frustrations onto a public forum in the guise of something else.

anorexia is a mental illness... but so is being frustrated about yourself and taking it out on society.

1 upvote
Gionni Dorelli
By Gionni Dorelli (11 months ago)

Clothing photographs better on thinner people.

Most of these girls that we use for fashion editorials are naturally thin and healthy. They eat normally when lunch time come around on set and also in their every day life.
Some people do not eat a lot simply because they do not feel hungry. Other people eat a lot and more often and most of them get sick and die earlier than thinner people.

Comment edited 47 seconds after posting
1 upvote
SRHEdD
By SRHEdD (11 months ago)

People seem to forget the natural selection process in these issues. I see a photo, any photo, and have an opinion, or not. I don't need hoards of photo police and societal watchdogs telling me how to view, what to view, or how to interpret. If enough people like what they see, the publication is a success. If not, reformat and try again. Add fat to a skinny model? I don't care, make your point with the image, manipulated or not. For NEWS, I expect unaltered imagery (within reasonable confines). Do more and risk credibility. Anyone who thinks that photos of celebrities aren't manipulated (in their venue) are blind, and that likely expands to political figures as well when the opportunity avails. Just print your crap, I'LL decide whether you've gone too far. My readership dollars and buying decisions (and those of other readers) will let you know quickly how you're doing.

1 upvote
SRHEdD
By SRHEdD (11 months ago)

Is she too thin? I'll let you know after our first date to a nice restaurant. I'd have a chance to get to know her, see her face-to-face (sans PS), and learn more about the PERSON (apparently a novel concept). She's quite attractive, gainfully employed, and confident looking. That's a good start.

Comment edited 34 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 53