Elsewhere, I posted a philosopher's response to this article about a company that stopped photoshopping the images of the models used in their marketing. It raised philosophical issues for me.

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THE ORIGINAL POST

I ran across this article and, believe it or not, it raised all kinds of questions I would have loved to address in a philosophy class had I been teaching one.

Questions like:

If it's wrong to show skinny models (and I'm not taking sides), is it also wrong to show pretty models? Seems like a fair question.

Is there a fundamental difference between a teenage girl admiring and wanting to be able to emulate a supermodel like Anna Ewars or Gigi Hadid and a teenage boy admiring and wanting to emulate a super athlete like LeBron James or Aaron Rodgers? considering the fact that doing so will likely prove to be impossible for either the girl or the boy.

Striving toward a moral/ethical ideal can be equally impossible. Is not being able to be as good as your ideal (Bono, Mother Teresa, Ghandi) also self-destructive and psychologically damaging?

Is there something better about a world where there are no more ideals to strive toward?

Is having ideals inherently destructive and damaging?

What would a world be like if striving toward being normal replaced striving for a difficult/impossible to achieve ideal?

These questions would lead to some heated discussions. Too bad I'm not teaching right now.

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ABU'S COMMENT

First off Aerie (while to be applauded for ditching photo-retouching) is hardly marketing it's swimwear on the median female body (at least in North America).

Second - While I get your underlying supposition, there is a difference between wanting to b
e Aaron Rodgers (or Lindsey Vaughn or Walter Payton or Serena Williams) -- who are primarily famous for their skill in a sport and wanting to be any model who is famous for... winning the combined genetic and marketing lottery.

While there is no doubt that you need underlying skill (genetic lottery) to become a world-class athlete, practice and determination can take you a long way - and in fact can beat out those who are gifted but aren't diligent in honing their skills.

Wanting to be "like a model" has ruined thousands of lives to anorexia/bulima - not counting those who ARE/WERE models.

Is it wrong to have role models (or ideals) to emulate? Of course not. But people need to be realistic with those goals. Spud Webb is 2" shorter than I am. With real dedication I probably could have learned to jump almost as high as he could - but I've never had the coordination with a basketball to allow me to emulate him.

That said - shoot for the stars, for if you miss, at least you're flying!

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MY REPLY TO ABU

A real discussion! Makes me feel like teaching again.

ABU: First off Aerie (while to be applauded for ditching photo-retouching) is hardly marketing it's swimwear on the median female body
 (at least in North America).

UNSEEN: I seriously doubt if no retouching was done, but serious photoshopping has been banned apparently. By "serious photoshopping" I mean giving women smaller waists or stretching them to make them look taller than they really are. I would be surprised if no retouching had been done since I see no zits, birthmarks, etc.

ABU: Second - While I get your underlying supposition, there is a difference between wanting to be Aaron Rodgers (or Lindsey Vaughn or Walter Payton or Serena Williams) -- who are primarily famous for their skill in a sport and wanting to be any model who is famous for... winning the combined genetic and marketing lottery.

While there is no doubt that you need underlying skill (genetic lottery) to become a world-class athlete, practice and determination can take you a long way - and in fact can beat out those who are gifted but aren't diligent in honing their skills.

UNSEEN: I could probably portray everything a girl has to do to succeed in the world of high-end fashion modeling (dieting, exercise, being coached) as having parallels to succeeding as an athlete, including being marketed. 

ABU: Wanting to be "like a model" has ruined thousands of lives to anorexia/bulima - not counting those who ARE/WERE models.

UNSEEN: And what about all the black boys who are convinced they are the next LeBron James or all the Hispanic boys who think they are the next Carlos Correa? A fantasy that has them putting their life on hold or participating in sports to a degree that gives them concussions, broken bones, blown knees, etc.? 

The problem isn't marketing, TV, or magazines (who reads magazines anymore?), it's values in both cases, and values come from family. 

ABU: Is it wrong to have role models (or ideals) to emulate? Of course not. But people need to be realistic with those goals. Spud Webb is 2" shorter than I am. With real dedication I probably could have learned to jump almost as high as he could - but I've never had the coordination with a basketball to allow me to emulate him.

UNSEEN: And despite all my practicing, I never came close to being the successor to Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton. My life is ruined.

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Replies to This Discussion

I couldn't find a question or discussion topic so I'm just answering as many questions as I can find. Presumably your goal was to spark discussion. Did you really teach philosophy? I feel like my education could of been better rounded if it included a little philosophy and logic. How does one go from philosophy teacher to erotic photographer? Have you considered writing an autobiography?

If it's wrong to show skinny models (and I'm not taking sides), is it also wrong to show pretty models?

More important question: why is it ok to show any particular kind of models? If it's ok to show one person modelling some clothes, why wouldn't it be ok to show ANY other person doing the same?

Striving toward a moral/ethical ideal can be equally impossible.

"If we strive for perfection, we can achieve excellence." - a quote I read once.

Is not being able to be as good as your ideal (Bono, Mother Teresa, Ghandi) also self-destructive and psychologically damaging?

I wouldn't know, ask a psychologist. Isn't it natural for human beings to select role models for themselves?

Is there something better about a world where there are no more ideals to strive toward?

It depends: If there are no ideals to strive for because they have already been met, then yes, that's better. If there are no ideals to strive for because they have been forcibly removed, then no, that's not better... I think human nature will find a way regardless. Maybe instead of idolising that which we will likely never become, we would idolise those closer to us, like the proverbial child idolising their mother or father.

Is having ideals inherently destructive and damaging?

There might be an argument that unachievable ideals are somehow damaging. Certainly it would force the idoliser to accept their own limitations... but maybe that's a net positive after all.

What would a world be like if striving toward being normal replaced striving for a difficult/impossible to achieve ideal?

Let's just say "Raise a beige alert", and hope everyone here understands the futurama reference.

Too bad I'm not teaching right now.

Aren't you?

First off Aerie (while to be applauded for ditching photo-retouching) is hardly marketing it's swimwear on the median female body (at least in North America).

And now we finally see what the original article was about... modelling swimwear on more average body types. To be honest, I think clothes should be modelled on the body type they are intended for to give the consumer the best idea of how it will look on them. i.e. if you have a range of swimwear for the morbidly obese, having super-models in your marketing material won't give your consumers any idea how it might look on them.

My life is ruined.

Such drama -.-

Did you really teach philosophy? I feel like my education could of been better rounded if it included a little philosophy and logic. How does one go from philosophy teacher to erotic photographer? Have you considered writing an autobiography?

Yes. I taught a couple intro courses for two terms. Intro to Philosophy and Logic 101. I never majored in philo with the intent of becoming a professor. I was mainly interested in the intellectual stimulation. I stopped teaching when I got "a real job."

(W)hy is it ok to show any particular kind of models? If it's ok to show one person modelling some clothes, why wouldn't it be ok to show ANY other person doing the same?

I'm not sure what you're getting at. What is the purpose of a business? It's to reward investors/owners with profits. One might argue that whichever kind of model brings in the most dough is the right kind of model. For this company, it's apparently models with more average figures, not exceptionally slender or tall models.

Striving toward a moral/ethical ideal can be equally impossible.

"If we strive for perfection, we can achieve excellence." - a quote I read once.

An argument for having impossible or virtually impossible ideals.

Is not being able to be as good as your ideal (Bono, Mother Teresa, Ghandi) also self-destructive and psychologically damaging?

I wouldn't know, ask a psychologist. Isn't it natural for human beings to select role models for themselves?

My implicit point was, isn't it sad that not reaching a physical ideal is more damaging to women than not being able to reach a moral/ethical ideal?

What would a world be like if striving toward being normal replaced striving for a difficult/impossible to achieve ideal?

Let's just say "Raise a beige alert", and hope everyone here understands the futurama reference.

It's lost on me. The only cartoons I watch are Japanese anime.

Too bad I'm not teaching right now.

Aren't you?

Not unless you count stuff like this.

I'm not sure what you're getting at. What is the purpose of a business?

What I meant was, why and how would we distinguish between models and decide which ones are allowed to be used and which aren't. i.e. I'm showing the statement that "showing skinny models is wrong" is nonsense to me.

An argument for having impossible or virtually impossible ideals.

I'd say it's an argument to strive for the ideal, regardless of whether it is possible.

isn't it sad that not reaching a physical ideal is more damaging to women than not being able to reach a moral/ethical ideal?

Yes, it's a bit sad. What's also sad is the lack of apparent nuance... if you can get 99% of the way there, that's a huge accomplishment.

It's lost on me. The only cartoons I watch are Japanese anime.

What I meant was we'll be bogged down in mediocrity.

Not unless you count stuff like this.

Depends how you define "teaching" then. I'm not sure if I'm learning anything, but we're having a discussion anyway.

I just realized I left something unanswered.

How does one go from philosophy teacher to erotic photographer? Have you considered writing an autobiography?

I taught philosophy in my late 20's. I turned to shooting nudes about 30 years later after a career in writing (technical and marketing) and moved from art to softcore because it's very hard to make money selling artistic nude photos. How often have you walked into someone's home and seen artistic photos on the walls (by which I mean photographic prints, not ink-on-paper prints). By contrast, naughty photos of girls will always sell one way or another. 

My life hasn't been eventful enough to justify an autobiography. Even shooting naughty stuff is far less interesting than people think. One of my main talents that helped me be successful in my nude/erotic work was that the models have always been comfortable doing the poses after just a few minutes of starting. In that regard my age worked for me. Had I been more of an eligible age, they would have been more on guard. However, since I was both all business and fun to work with, they were quickly put at ease.

At the same time, you'd probably be excited for a little while were you to sit in on a shoot, but you'd soon realize it's just a workplace. An unusual one, perhaps, but you'd be embarrassed to be excited by the goings on. You'd be the odd person out. 

Sure, I have a few interesting stories I could tell, but hardly enough to justify a book. 

How often have you walked into someone's home and seen artistic photos on the walls

One of my grandmothers has a picture of a nude woman after a shower or bath on her dining room wall.

(by which I mean photographic prints, not ink-on-paper prints)

I have no idea what the difference is.

There's a big difference between having an original Ansel Adams print and the same image off a printing press.

I suspect an Ansel Adams "original" would be extremely expensive.  (I guess there can be multiple original prints with photography?)

On an almost totally unrelated note, I have a fair number of numbered prints of paintings on the walls here, largely from one particular expensive artist (he regularly asks for and gets $20K for works).  Originals from other artists the same gallery carries.  My *only* original from the expensive guy is a study he did for another work.

Ansel Adams prints go for thousands of dollars. The better ones for many thousands of dollars. 

What makes an art photo valuable? It's not just beauty, because beauty isn't the only subject of art. There's no value if there's no demand, and what causes demand? Great reviews, for one thing. Word of mouth. Exposure in publications. 

The next thing is scarcity. So, if you want to make money from a photograph, you don't print 100, 1000, or more copies. You do a limited run and then destroy the negative (if it was shot on film), or you retire the original digital file. Signing the print adds to the value. Generally, it will say on the back something like "Print 7 of 20" or something like that. 

We've digressed. 

My point was that if you want to make money shooting nudes, it probably won't be by selling original prints. Most people put up landscapes, family photos, pet photos, etc., not nudes. 

Most of the money shooting nudes, sadly perhaps, is in porn. If you have a talent for working with women who are willing to pose nude, you'll probably make your main income in porn and shoot art nudes off the clock.

I suspect there's more of a market even today for painted art nudes than for photography.

My prints are generally hand numbered, but being giclees of paintings that will end up framed with the back inaccessible (framers generally glue something over the back face fo their work), the numbering is below the artist's signature.

Sidenote. Bono is a tax dodging, overhyped midget who thinks if we all just give enough money we can "make poverty history". Mother Theresa loved misery to further her brand image. She was a friend of poverty. And Ghandi, well ok he wasn't the worst but he was still a weird pacifist who would lie down and die when the bad guys come over the hill. A wicked philosophy.

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