Excessively Photoshopped images disregard ethics

Dianna Agron posed on the cover of the September issue of Cosmo with her right arm dangling unnaturally from her too-skinny waist. Adam Levine was missing part of his torso in Russia’s Vogue. A suspiciously darker O.J. Simpson was on the cover of Time magazine in 1994.

A campaign to secure legislation for a law that will inform the public of excessive photo editing might put an end to such Photoshop faux-pas. The campaign was created by Off Our Chests magazine founders Seth and Eva Matlins and would “require all ads and editorials that have significantly airbrushed or photoshopped the human form to carry ‘truth in advertising labels’ on them.” Although we are a bit skeptical of how this act could be regulated (What is “significantly airbrushed” and what is not? How many fixes can be made without the truth label?) we believe it is a positive step toward more ethical journalism and photography.

Many publications, often fashion-related, seem to think that they have the liberty to manipulate a photo without repercussions. The idea that a photo solely belongs to a publication is ethically irresponsible; the person being photographed and the reader should also be considered. First and foremost, a commitment to conveying the truth to readers should be paramount. The National Press Photographers Association supports this and states in its Digital Manipulation Code of Ethics that, “As journalists we believe the guiding principle of our profession is accuracy; therefore, we believe it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way that deceives the public.” Excessive Photoshopping goes directly against this code of ethics.

We are encouraged that these concerns are being heard and put into action through the Matlins campaign. Although we are skeptical of how the act would be implemented, we believe it is a step in the right direction. We stand in solidarity with the Matlins to advocate more ethical journalism.