Truth in Advertising

Photoshop on the chopping block?: AMA condemns touching up fashion photos

Photoshop on the chopping block?: AMA condemns touching up fashion photos

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Could Photoshop be bad for your health?

According to a decision released this week by the American Medical Association, it just might be.

The AMA states in their release that ubiquitous images present a confusing version of reality for impressionable minds and Photoshopping images "can contribute to unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image." They link these unrealistic body image disparity with the rampant explosion of eating disorders developing in adolescents (mostly in young women) in the United States.

In response, the AMA suggests that ad agencies begin working with private sector child and adolescent organizations to create a workable set of rules on how ads are created and presented to the general viewing audience. (Whether these two organizations could get along well enough to work together is another matter altogether.)

A similar plan was proposed two years ago in France when parliament member Valerie Boyer suggested that all enhanced media images (including advertisements, press photos, political campaigns, art photography and product packaging) also come with a warning label.

The warning would be similar to the U.S. Surgeon General's Warning that appears on packs of cigarettes here in The States. The phrase, "Photograph retouched to modify the physical appearance of a person" would accompany each retouched image in bold print.

Fifty fellow members of parliament stood in solidarity with Boyer, and the French fasion industry quickly agreed to a charter to refrain from using images that promote "extreme thinness."

Would a measure like the one the AMA suggests fly here in the U.S.? Or would there be a backlash by photographers, models and Americans who are used to seeing our celebrities stick-thin and blemish-free?

"I think it's extreme to think we could change every image that is out there," states CultureMap Austin Photography Editor Jessica Pages. "Photoshop is part of the industry these days, as much as makeup and lighting. Stricter guidelines are understandable, but where do you put the limit on what is extreme and what is part of the artistic process?"

Absolutely, Photoshop has taken the industry to new artistic heights, but let's not forget the tragic missteps of Photoshop overzealousness as well.

Perhaps it is time for a refresher course for the media and Americans of what Photoshop was created for originally: bringing a subject more into focus, not creating works of fiction.