The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

It’s now against the law to secretly touch up photos of models in France

Demi Lovato at an event at the Highline Gallery in New York City on Sept. 28. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for JBL)
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Pop star Demi Lovato once posted a unedited image photo of herself wearing lingerie to Instagram with the caption: “because I’m proud to show my body the way it naturally is.”

But many commercial photographers find untouched photos unacceptable.

While the United States still allows digital altering of professional photos of models with no repercussions, in France it’s a different story. A new law there says commercial photos of models made to look thinner or thicker by digital editing must be labeled “photo retouched.”

It’s a sort of truth-in-advertising label aimed, in part, to lessen body shaming.

“Exposing young people to normative and unrealistic images of bodies leads to a sense of self-depreciation and poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behavior,” Health Minister Marisol Touraine told the BBC.

The pressures put on women in show business to maintain unrealistic body shapes is so rampant that the images of stars are commonly digitally altered to be thinner, to remove stretch marks or to add feminine curves.

Just months ago, organizers of the Cannes Film Festival in France caused a stir when its organizers edited a photograph of actress Claudia Cardinale on the festival’s official poster. Critics said the photo was edited to slim down her thighs and waist.

Cardinale didn’t have a problem with that.

“The photo was retouched to accentuate the effect of lightness and to transpose me into a dream character; it’s a sublimation,” she said in a news release.

But some famous women — Lena Dunham, Chrissy Teigen, Ashley Graham and Lovato — take issue with the practice.

Pop star Meghan Trainor topped the Billboard charts with her debut single “All About that Bass,” in which she aggressively takes on photo editing. She sang, “I see the magazines working that Photoshop / We know that s‑‑‑ ain’t real, come on now, make it stop / If you got beauty just raise ’em up / ’cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.”

Last year, Trainor pulled a music video from the Internet that displayed the singer sporting a smaller waist than she actually has. “My waist is not that teeny,” she said via Snapchat. “I had a bomb waist that night. I don’t know why they didn’t like my waist. I didn’t approve that video, and it went out to the world. So I’m embarrassed.”

Dunham, the creator and star of HBO’s “Girls,” announced in her newsletter last year that she would no longer allow magazine editors to alter her image.

“When I started getting photographed by professionals to promote my work, it didn’t occur to me to ask about, or to question, the use of Photoshop,” she wrote, according to the Guardian. “I was 24, and whatever they did to make women appear important, desirable, and worthy of praise was what I wanted.”

Failure to comply with France’s new law comes with a fine of more than $44,000 or 30 percent of the money spent on advertising.

The measure prompted the Seattle-based Getty Images, one of the largest online stock image repositories, to amend its own rules. The service said it won’t carry “any creative content depicting models whose body shapes have been retouched to make them look thinner or larger.”

Teigen, a model who has fought against digital editing by posting photographs of her bruises and stretch marks to Instagram, promised two years ago to never use digital software to alter photos of herself again.

“It’s gotten to the point where they’re not smoothing their skin anymore, they’re actually changing the shape of their body,” she continued. “Nobody can compare to that when you’re fixing yourself so much. It’s so unfair.”

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