While we see T as more of a fashion magazine, many New York Times subscribers probably don't. As people who look at images from fashion magazines and runways on a daily basis, we didn't give this T cover featuring Julia Nobis in a swimsuit and leather jacket a second thought--at least not for any other reason than the impracticality of wearing a leather jacket over a swimsuit.
However, several readers--whose eyes are probably less accustomed than ours to seeing unrealistically thin people everywhere---complained about how shockingly thin and underage Nobis looked on the cover and in the accompanying editorial. One asked, “Where did you get this child for your cover? The photo represents kiddy porn and I object.” Another wrote, "Hasn’t the debate in fashion over the promotion of these wretchedly thin models been thoroughly discussed? Do we really have to fight this issue within The New York Times in 2013?"
While most fashion magazines would probably ignore such criticism or wait until it became too big of a story for them not to respond, the Times's public editor, Margaret Sullivan addressed the issue this week, providing the following comment from EIC Deborah Needleman:
I’ve gotten a lot of comments from people loving the images!
Julia Nobis, the model, is a 20-year-old undergraduate studying medicine. We chose her because of her strong looks and the personality she is able to project. 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. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is racier and more explicit than these images.
Although I certainly understand the readers’ objections, I found the photographs arresting but pretty mild, especially by today’s fashion magazine standards.
I am always aware and trying to not pick super-skinny models. In fact, in the pictures of her [we first saw] she was heavier, and then we shot after fashion month and she was super-skinny. But models are really skinny. I think part of it is the Times readership — it's not necessarily a fashion audience. In real people's eyes, models are really, really skinny.
Only in real people's eyes, though.
Needleman's initial comment also raised questions about how the Times uses photoshop. Needleman said she's never used photoshop to make someone look less skinny, but she has "thought about it." Sullivan also updated her post with the following:
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.
Oh, we will. In the mean time, what do you think? Was Julia Nobis too thin to cover T?