View Full Version : Photographer fighting anorexic standard

5th February 2009, 18:59
There was a devastating article (http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?t=1245) posted on this forum a couple of years ago about one of the many models who died of anorexia, and about the photographer who began a crusade against fashion-industry starvation as a result.

His campaign continues in his native Israel, with a specific push to get the straight-size industry to do away with waifs, and to begin using more normally-proportioned models.


This doesn't have anything to do with plus-size modelling directly, however the photographer's criticisms are severe indictments of the fashion industry.

Here is the relevant text:

Fashion photographer aims to remodel fashion world

By Rachel Neiman February 05, 2009

What is beauty? It's a question Israeli fashion photographer Adi Barkan has been wrestling with for seven years, ever since he launched a crusade to rid the fashion industry of its dirty little secret: presenting unhealthy body images that promote eating disorders among young women.

Yesterday, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, Barkan launched the next phase in his campaign: Simply U, a countrywide talent-scouting project to find the most promising healthy, well-balanced and normal-sized would-be models in Israel....

What Barkan is asking of the fashion industry is very difficult. He is asking the insiders, mavens and sophisticates to suspend cynicism and believe that they can change the world.

He has every reason to think he can do it. A 30-year industry veteran, Barkan started his crusade seven years ago, after his experience with model Hila Elmalich, an anorexic whom he rushed to hospital after she collapsed. She later died.

In 2004, he successfully submitted a bill to the Knesset that requires all Israeli modeling agencies to use Body Mass Index (BMI) as a pre-requisite for employment. Today, the governments of Spain and France have adopted legislation based, in part, on Barkan's efforts, that prevent underweight girls from runway modeling.

"We decided to take on the world of glamour and change it. We can change the world - all it takes is getting the photographers, the modeling agencies, ad agencies, and the fashion media on board - there aren't that many of us here in Israel. And the agencies abroad are looking to us. We wrote a law that the French adopted. Let's get over being cynical. Let's recognize the problem for what it is. Let's create an alternative. Let's show them the way," Barkan says...

"As a heterosexual male, I grew up with a certain image of female beauty. There was once a feeling among models that you could be you. Today, you have to look like someone on TV - and who's on TV? Kids!" says Barkan.

"We create a fantasy that can't be fulfilled. We take the thinnest girl, light her during photo shoots, clean her up with Photoshop. Proportions like hers don't exist in reality," he adds.

Although he cites various influences, including the introduction of multi-channel television into Israel, there is no one culprit, he says. Instead, there is a general environment that encourages an unhealthy lifestyle, as exemplified by the drop in the requisite body mass index that he's witnessed over his 21-year career...

Gal made the decision to lend his name to the project not simply out of friendship, but because the issue is one close to home. His wife is the founder of AVIV, the Israeli non-profit organization that assists people with eating disorders; she suffered from anorexia as a girl and her experience was made the subject of a documentary film. Through her, Gal began coaching sessions for girls with eating disorders.

..."In our so-called developed Western civilization, we continue to lead girls to their death and reinforce this industry that says that to be beautiful you have to be thin," he explains.

Today, Gal called on the fashion industry, including the related advertising and marketing industries, "not to employ sick girls and women. We, the consumers, don't want sick girls. Let's change the model. We are the responsible adults, we have to change the situation, and I hope that the Simply U project will be the beginning of this process, get the big advertisers to say 'no more'; and present women with normal BMI, high self-esteem, healthy and balanced," he says.

In the Israeli fashion world, Betty Rockaway is legendary as the founder of modeling agency Image and the person who put Israeli models on the international map. She also goes on speaking engagements to schools to talk about the dangers of anorexia. The problem of anorexia, she says, is exacerbated by stylists and photographers who want an androgynous look. "For once, let's not imitate the US," she says. "Let's have the message come from here and have America copy us. We can save lives."

Barkan's other partner in Simply U is Rabbi Raphael Mammo of Kiryat Ata, who provided spiritual guidance when he was at his lowest point. Since finding his path, Barkan says, "There hasn't been a government office door that I haven't knocked on. I've met with officials, Knesset members. But the onslaught of what's happening is incomprehensible. And the statistics about this catastrophe are out of date." By his own calculations after meeting with officials, Barkan estimates there are at least 150,000 young women in Israel suffering from anorexia...

At the launch of Simply U, Rabbi Mammo called on all advertisers to invest 1 percent of what they invest in advertising to treat the victims. "Then you can change the direction of advertising and advertisers," he said.
The article brings up several important points.

1. An acknowledgment that fashion-industry starvation standards are causing eating disorders, and are "leading girls to their death."

2. A recognition that industry professionals can change the industry; that its standards are not immutable and arbitrary, like geologic forces, or the weather, but are imposed by a small handful of power-brokers, and that these "creative leaders" can and must change their ways.

3. The awareness of a biological basis for this problem. The photographer, the article notes, is a heterosexual male, while many other photographers and stylists "want an androgynous look."

And most importantly:

4. A testament to the importance of govt. legislation, which must be applied, since the fashion industry refuses to budge from its promotion of anorexia.

(As I said, this article is about the minus-size industry, but let's hope that if the photographer's campaign brings straight-size modelling back to a size 8, then the standard for plus-size models can once again begin at a size 16 and include many sizes larger than that.)

18th March 2009, 01:19
The sad thing is, the media paid attention to this crisis for a while, but now it has fallen off the radar, and the fashion industry is once again being allowed to promote anorexia in its fashion shows and publications.

I wasn't a member of this forum back when the series of models died from eating disorders, but I remember passing this news story around to some of my friends at the time.


It makes the point pretty succinctly. Here is the relevant text:

Sorry state of affairs for size zeros

It's time to get real to prevent eating disorders, writes Andrea Byrne

Sunday September 23 2007

A RECENT inquiry into the health of fashion models found that one in four could have some form of an eating disorder. Sad as it is, it doesn't surprise me.

While working at New York Fashion Week a fortnight ago, I had no choice but to mingle in the same circles as some of the world's most famous models. It's hard to envisage how thin these women really are until you stand next to them.

Their thighs are the same size as an average woman's arms, their stomachs concave, their jaws jut, their vertebrae protrude and their clavicles pierce -- exactly the way the fashion industry likes and wants them. But the unfortunate reality is that this unrealistic catwalk ideal and unhealthy aesthetic is translating onto our streets and driving normal women to extremes.

Choosing the catwalk photographs to accompany the New York fashion report proved incredibly difficult and painstaking. While the clothes were bright, colourful and full of life, the women wearing them were the complete opposite. Countless images made for frightening viewing, so prevalent was the evidence of bones. In many cases, a feeble excuse for a figure failed miserably to fill the garments...

Organisations have estimated that one in five Irish women between the ages of 15 and 30 will develop an eating disorder of some form...

[L]ook at any magazine and you'll see that celebrities are just as bad, if not worse. Take Victoria Beckham: if she didn't have her breasts artificially-enhanced on multiple occasions, she would look like a teenage boy. Similarly, fellow A-listers such as Kate Bosworth, Keira Knightley and Calista Flockhart are permanently flaunting their bony androgynous frames and sunken cheeks. Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie who stands at 5ft 7in has reportedly shrunk down to a scary 95lbs, which is just over six and a half stone.

I am championing the return of the healthy-looking, curvy woman who has boobs and a bum.

London Fashion Week justified its reasoning for refusing to ban the use of size zero by claiming that you can't assess someone's health based on dress size alone, but then what's the alternative? Should models be weighed in like jockeys? Should their body mass index be heavily monitored? It may seem a little demeaning for the model, but if there's any way to quash this ubiquitous and destructive problem once and for all, it's a small price to pay.
The last point is especially important. So what if it's a bit inconvenient? The alternative is death, and the further spread of eating disorders.

It's time for the fashion industry to acknowledge that, top to bottom, its standards are criminally toxic to society, and to reform those standards to a more natural size.

And the crucial thing is, this necessary reform does not mean the end of beauty or ideals, etc. Just the opposite. It means a better ideal, a more natural ideal, and a more feminine and truly attractive level of beauty.

26th July 2009, 12:01
2. A recognition that industry professionals can change the industry; that its standards are not immutable and arbitrary, like geologic forces, or the weather, but are imposed by a small handful of power-brokers, and that these "creative leaders" can and must change their ways.
This is indeed the most significant revelation of all. For far too long, the creative heads of straight-size fashion have hidden themselves behind industrial anonymity, evading responsibility by creating the perception that fashion's underweight standards somehow "evolved," like plant life, or were the product of a mass consciousness for which no single entity is responsible.

(We see here the appalling real-world consequences of Cultural Materialism, the ideology that attributes the fruits of a culture to a general milieu, and not to lone creative talents--as if the Eroica Symphony was not composed by Beethoven, but was merely a product of "19th-century Vienna.")

But this is stuff and nonsense. Obviously, the culture that we see all around us is created by specific individuals exerting their creative will--in this case, harmfully and destructively.

After all, emaciated models do not magically appear on the runways and in fashion magazines.

They are not booked by "the industry."

They are not photographed by "New York."

They are not told to starve by "the '90s."

No, any time an anorexic-looking model is seen in a magazine or on a runway, she is there because one person, somewhere, made the pernicious decision to choose her over a healthy looking model, to put a harmful image before the public instead of a positive one.

These skeletal models are selected by specific individuals--individuals who have put their personal warped tastes before health and humanity, and who must be answerable for their destructive decisions.

Any designer, or editor, or photographer who chooses emaciated models in lieu of curvy ones should be held to account for imposing a toxic standard on young women. They should be compelled to change their policies, or forced out of the industry.

Does that sound extreme? Hardly. The alternative is, quite literally, <i>death</i>--and no editor's preference, or designer's predilection, or photographer's taste, is worth the taking of human life. As the photographer in the article under discussion admits, <i>"we continue to lead girls to their death and reinforce this industry that says that to be beautiful you have to be thin."</i>

And that has to end, once and for all.

The photographer in question must be commended for doing more than merely issuing the proper statements and paying lip service to the body-image crisis, as so many of his peers do. He has taken a principled stand, and is attempting to reform the toxic industry of which is a part.

His call to action is compelling:<p><blockquote><i>We decided to take on the world of glamour and change it. We can change the world - all it takes is getting the photographers, the modeling agencies, ad agencies, and the fashion media on board . . . Let's get over being cynical. Let's recognize the problem for what it is. Let's create an alternative.</i></blockquote><p>However, it is unlikely that his campaign, noble as it is, will be able to effect the reform that it seeks, when the industry is peopled from top to bottom by individuals whose explicit intention is to promote an anorexic standard, and who don't care one iota that they are ruining the lives of generations of young women.

Therefore, government legislation is urgently required, worldwide, for any reform to occur.

And all of the specific individuals who impose emaciation as a perverted "norm" must change their booking policies to embrace a healthy ideal, or be prevented from poisoning the culture.

After all, an anorexic look is <i>not</I> required to create beautiful, fashionable images. Plus-size models can produce what the fashion industry needs, promoting attractive fashions and creating artistic photographs, without damaging women's body image.

Cathy Bole (Flaunt Models, size 18)--gorgeously styled test photo:<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/forum/cathy02.jpg"></center>