Monday, April 7, 2008

Magazines face curbs to photo airbrushing

Magazines face curbs to photo airbrushing
By Amanda Andrews

Madonna's bulging biceps have gone missing from her portrait in the latest edition of Vanity Fair, and Keira Knightley's bust is decidedly bigger in a poster promoting the film King Arthur than in earlier publicity pictures.

However, magazines are now facing curbs on the extent they can airbrush pictures of celebrities amid concern that it encourages young girls to ignore the health risks of trying to attain a waif-like figure.

Magazine editors have agreed to meet with their trade association to agree a code of practice for the use of airbrushed photographs. Among those expected to attend are Alexandra Shulman of Vogue, Lorraine Candy of Elle, and Kay Goddard of Hello! Representatives of leading publishing houses and the fashion council will also attend.

The summit, for which a date has yet to be agreed, is in response to an inquiry by Baroness Kingsmill last year, which concluded that airbrushing could "perpetuate an unachievable aesthetic".

The introduction of a code of practice was a key recommendation of Baroness Kingsmill's Model Health Inquiry.

Kerry Neilson, the PPA's director of legal and public affairs, said: "Using digital technology to adjust images is a technique widely used across all media from promotional material to films to the web."

Ms Neilsen added: "The BFC said that digital adjustment was outside of their remit, but believed it formed part of 'the wider issue of model health'. As this is a complex issue and there is no pre-determined consensus across the industry, we are currently canvassing views."

Young women are being bombarded with images of perfection across mediums, from magazines to television to the internet. It emerged last week that a website called Miss Bimbo was encouraging girls as young as nine to embrace plastic surgery and extreme dieting in the quest for the perfect figure. The website was quickly condemned by healthcare professionals and parents.

Susan Ringwood, the chief executive of eating disorders charity, Beat, said: "I think a message should be placed by an airbrushed picture saying that it has been digitally enhanced. However, it would make a big difference if airbrushing to make supermodels look slimmer was just not allowed at all."

The first real criticisms of airbrushing came in 2003 when Kate Winslet, famous for defending the appearance of fuller-figured women, appeared waif-like on the cover of GQ in 2003. The magazine's editor was forced to admit that the images had been "digitally altered."

Ms Winslet's enhanced picture in GQ came as a particular surprise, as the image accompanied an article where she questioned the attitudes of woman who equate beauty and sex appeal with being thin.

"So why is it that women think in order to be adored they have to be thin? I just don't understand that way of thinking... I'm certainly not a sex symbol who doesn't eat," Ms Winslet said.

According to sources at the time, Ms Winslet approved the original photos, but was not consulted about the digital changes.

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