On Monday, March 19, the Israeli parliament passed legislation ubiquitously known in the country as the Photoshop laws. The new regulations on the fashion and advertising industry ban underweight models as determined by Body Mass Index and regulate Photoshop usage in media and advertising. Abroad, the laws have opened new discussion on a government’s right to intervene in these two industries.
The legislation focuses on two elements of the fashion industry that have long drawn criticism for their effects on women and, especially, girls: ultra thin models and the use of Photoshop to make women appear impossibly thin in advertisements. The measure has been controversial within Israel for raising the question of where free speech bumps up against the fashion industry’s responsibility — and its possible harm — to its customers’ psychological wellbeing. It has also raised the question of whether other countries might consider similar measures to address what many activists consider a root cause of an epidemic of anorexia and other eating disorders.
An icon in the fashion world, Adi Barkan tried to deal with the issue from the inside: appealing for change within his beloved industry, to an overwhelmingly negative response of doubts, jabs, and apathy.
“I became immersed in this world very quickly. I gave up the agency and photography and…realized that only legislation can change the situation.”
// Photo – David Blackwell