Getty Images stands up for authentic visual representation

MoMo Productions, Getty Images

MoMo Productions, Getty Images

Getty Images has announced that it will no longer accept creative images depicting models whose body shapes have been retouched.

This is an industry first, and an important step for authentic visual representation globally, as accurate, healthy depiction in advertising imagery has a direct correlation on fighting stereotypes, creating tolerance and empowering communities.

Spurred by a new law in France that requires clients who use commercial images in the region to disclose whether the body shape of the model has been retouched, Getty Images has amended its Creative Stills Submission Requirements globally to ensure that such retouched creative materials cannot be submitted.

The wider context around Getty Images’ decision suggests good news too, as its announcement was a direct response to a positive shift in consumer choices, fuelled by consumer demand. The Getty Images’ team has been tracking the evolving representation of women in imagery for the past few years, and has seen a positive shift toward those images which show more realistic and authentic representations of women.

This isn’t a one-off effort for Getty Images. Way back in 2014 it launched its Lean In Collection, a series curated in partnership with Sheryl Sandberg’s leanin.org that depicts realistic, authentic images of women and the communities which support them. In more recent efforts earlier this year, Getty Images announced an exclusive content partnership with MuslimGirl.com that aims to tackle misrepresentation of Muslim women in the media and advertising, creating an offering of new, high-quality images that authentically represent Muslim women in a fresh and contemporary light.

Plus, it teamed up with Refinery29 on its No Apologies collection, with a new library of images intended to provide an opportunity for the media industry to evolve the conversation and action around accurately representing women’s bodies, diversity, and the experiences that women face in their everyday lives.

Muslim Girl Getty Images

Muslim Girl Getty Images

We speak to Stuart Hannagan, VP of Editorial APAC, Getty Images, on the announcement.

D-Photo: Historically images have been altered by way of lighting and exposure and, more recently, with retouching software that can make people look thinner, taller, blemishless — perfect. How have advances in digital photography made the issue of accurate representation more pertinent than ever

Stuart Hannagan: As technology in photography continues to evolve rapidly, we are seeing images that are more difficult than ever to tell if they have been Photoshopped. Millennia audiences in particular have been bombarded with imagery their entire life, and this — combined with the rise of social media — sees them wanting a greater desire for transparency in imagery. As ‘digital natives’ this demographic in particular has grown up with the internet, and as a result is much savvier to marketing than previous generations. With this being the landscape we live in, and knowing that imagery in the media has direct impact on society — on women’s body image, fighting stereotypes, creating tolerance, and empowering communities to feel represented — Getty Images believes it has a responsibility to ensure accurate and authentic visual representation. That’s why, over the last several years, Getty Images has made a concerted effort to change the way women and other marginalized communities are represented in media and advertising. We have been joined in this effort by image partners, including Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.org, Refinery29, MuslimGirl and Jaguar Land Rover.

Peter Cade, Getty Images

Peter Cade, Getty Images

DP: Being one of the world’s leading image creators and distributors, in many ways Getty Images is a ‘tastemaker’. How do you personally view Getty’s social and ethical responsibilities?

SH: We are keenly aware that every day, our business affects individuals and society on many levels. We believe that images have the power to move the world, reframing concepts like gender, race, mental illness, LGBTQ and religion — altering perceptions, evoking empathy and engaging brands more deeply with a broader audience. In this digital age, imagery as a communication tool is more important than ever before, and we believe that we have the opportunity and responsibility to spur further positive change. Anyone who has a role in creating, distributing and selecting imagery at any level in the advertising and editorial industries has the ability — and responsibility — to better represent the diverse audiences they are speaking to. By creating and making these images easier to find, we are encouraging Getty Images’ 1.5 million customers around the world to use these more forward-looking pictures in their projects.

DP: Though it’s not really a novel concept, it still feels fresh, even worth celebrating, when consumers are presented with an non-retouched image. What change does Getty Images hope to help effect by the announcement?

SH: Our perceptions of what is possible are often shaped by what we see: positive imagery can have direct impact on fighting stereotypes, creating tolerance, and empowering communities to feel represented in society. That is why Getty Images is a passionate advocate for the realistic representation of all through imagery, and is proud to lead the visual industry in the creation and promotion of powerful, relevant imagery, which celebrates diversity and authenticity in every area of life.

DP: Many photographers feel that the most compelling image is one that shows real character, rather than the perfect. What are your personal thoughts on this?

SH: We agree! As do consumers, they are demanding authenticity. Recently we have seen a trend towards stepping away from the hyper-airbrushed, perfect images of the past and a growing demand for intersectional realism. The search term “unfiltered” has gone up 219 per cent over the past year, “authenticity” has increased 104 per cent, and “real life” is up 99 per cent. Amongst the trends our visual anthropologists have identified for 2017 stands the Gritty Woman, a new woman that is smashing conventions and tearing down walls: she’s tough, tenacious, laser-focused and unafraid to get her hands dirty.

 Jodie Griggs, Getty Images

 Jodie Griggs, Getty Images

DP: Should the conversation around accurate representation fundamentally deal with whether or not we should retouch images, or should it question whether or not we should create an image that is not achievable in real life?

SH: Both move us towards the goal of more authentic imagery. For creative content this is our first guideline on retouching, but for years now we have been championing the creation and promotion of powerful, relevant imagery which celebrates diversity and authenticity. Back in February 2014, when we launched the Getty Images Lean In collection — featuring realistic, authentic images of women and the communities who support them — the customer response was incredibly positive. Since launch, images from the Lean In collection have been licensed in over 95 countries, from Kuwait to Korea, India to Israel, Angola to Australia, Panama to Poland. Almost 40,000 images have been downloaded through the collection across a wide variety of industries — and images featured in the collection have seen double digit growth in customer demand. Ultimately, we believe this move is incredibly positive for the visual industry.

DP: A lot of the content we encounter on a day-to-day basis is driven by a desire to escape from reality. How should photographers gauge when the digital manipulation of an image is, or isn’t, appropriate?

SH: A lot of the time it’s easy for photographers to determine whether the digital manipulation of an image is appropriate or not. When digital manipulation is used to deal with subtle fixes, like the removal of clothing bumps, it’s appropriate. Creative images also sometimes use Photoshop to emphasize certain aspects of the image which is also acceptable. When digital manipulation becomes an issue is when we are fundamentally changing the appearance of a model, or manipulating consumers to believe that an image hasn’t be retouched.

Stephen Zeigler, Getty Images

Stephen Zeigler, Getty Images