New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan has promised to examine Times photo policies after T Magazine editor Deborah Needleman made an offhand reference about wanting to Photoshop a model on the magazine’s cover.
In her Monday column, Sullivan noted some readers objected to the styling of model Julia Nobis, saying the photos make “suggestions of bondage.” Readers also called the images “kiddy porn” because Nobis appeared younger than her 20 years and was “anorexic-looking.”
Needleman told Sullivan that Nobis was chosen for her “strong looks” and “personality:”
She is rather thin for my taste, as most models are, and I considered adding some fat to her with Photoshop, but decided that as it is her body, I’d let it be. Fashion photography involves a bit of fantasy, and often some edge, and while the bathing suits are strappy and have buckles, that is a far cry from bondage — either showing it or advocating it.
Sullivan responded with an update to her column later Monday afternoon, writing: “Ms. Needleman’s reference to Photoshopping has raised some questions about how photographs are treated in The Times, including in its magazines. I’ll be looking into this, so stay tuned.” Sullivan told Poynter via email she does “expect to return to the topic very soon.”
The cover flap came the same day that a study from the University of Louisville found that while Sports Illustrated is famous for giving its cover to female models in swimsuits, there is a dearth of female athletes getting the spotlight.
Despite females’ increased participation in sport since the enactment of Title IX and calls for greater media coverage of female athletes, women appeared on just 4.9 percent of covers. The percentage of covers did not change significantly over the span and were comparable to levels reported for the 1980s by other researchers. Indeed, women were depicted on a higher percentage of covers from 1954–1965 than from 2000–2011.
The Huffington Post’s Emma Gray points out this is not necessarily surprising news.
As Pacific Standard points out, Sports Illustrated’s women problem is hardly theirs alone. Female musicians featured on Rolling Stone’s covers are overwhelmingly sexualized, and when SI tried to launch a woman-centric sports magazine, consumers didn’t buy it, and the publication folded in under two years.