So that’s the first part of the amendment. Véran also introduced a new rule that for any and all photos shot of models in a commercial sense, it must explicitly be stated that the photos were retouched, if they were in fact retouched. So basically, aside from Peter Lindbergh’s most recent shoot with Kate Moss (and Cindy Crawford’s leaked photos, if you choose to count them), every single photo in every single fashion or beauty magazine must explicitly state which photos have been worked on. All of the problems in France like racism, the traditionally high unemployment rate, the shrinking possibility to afford to live inside Paris or the high taxes, these all take the backseat to Photoshop.
The reason this law is so silly, in my humble opinion, is that it was created by people who have no background in fashion or photography, and thus understand nothing about it or what happens in it. I think Mr. Véran has completely forgotten the fact that the majority of photos we see today are retouched in some way or another. It doesn’t have to be a photo of a model necessarily. Even product photos are retouched today! They have done this without researching the industry, otherwise they would have realized that digital photography has made it almost indispensable to retouch a photo. I spoke with a French model who stated, “Well look at how beautiful the shoot is with Kate Moss and Lindbergh, and it wasn’t retouched.” Yes, well it was also shot on film, which is known to hide a ton of defects. And let’s not forget, it could have been “retouched” in a dark room, even if not in Photoshop (or retouched in Capture One/Lightroom/OpticsPro).
I think they maybe had good intentions, but without research and without precision, this new amendment can’t possibly do anything to help the industry. Imagine the government says, “For each photo that has been retouched in Vogue Magazine, you must place a little ‘star’ symbol in the bottom corner of each of those pages.” What you’ll end up with is a magazine with a star on every single page, so many that your idea of drawing attention to this object will almost make us immune to seeing it! If I see a ‘star’ or anything else on every single page of a 100+ page magazine, I stop paying attention after about the tenth time – and I’m sure there are many like myself. Not to mention, clothes are also retouched, not only the models. So who will even know what exactly was retouched in the photo?
There is also the idea that this is art. I’m sure Van Gogh didn’t place an explanation on the back of his paintings stating, “The image you see on the other side is not a 100% representation of reality.” I understand that they are thinking of young girls who believe these women are all-the-way real, and who literally do everything to try to model their bodies after the models, but…. What happened to parents actually educating their own children? Denzel Washington didn’t have to appear at the movie theatre at the end of Training Day to say, “Hey guys, that wasn’t real.” Why, if neither movies nor music are subject to this, should photography be? Why is it on an artist, or someone working in an artistic field, to do a parents’ job? Is that old-fashioned and asking too much for the parents to actually tell their daughters (and sons) that the model’s skin in the photos is retouched, or her waist has maybe been a little retouched?
Living in Paris, I, and other photographers find this a very poorly executed law that won’t achieve what they wanted. All I can see right now is the photos in Numéro and Harper’s Bazaar having captions on them like those on side mirrors: “The objects in this photo were retouched and shot using lighting equipment in controlled conditions, at a focal length different from how they would normally appear.” God help us.