Her Body Is Beautiful. The Swimsuit Company Photoshopped It Anyway. Now, They're On The Defensive.

She had some shots taken in a few swimsuits that a swimwear company sent her ("bathers," as they call them in Australia), and she had no idea the swimwear company was going to Photoshop them. I'm thinking they might regret that now. You?

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Interviewer: Now, our next guest is a doctor who has dedicated his life to helping people overcome aging disorders and body image issues and to celebrate our health, whatever the size. So imagine his shock when an image of his size eight daughter was Photoshopped without her knowledge by a swimwear company, all to try to make her look slimmer than she actually is. Dr. Rick Kausman, his daughter Meaghan and Pip Summerville who is the photographer who took that original snap, all join us now. Good morning to you. This is extraordinary really in light of the issues that you're trying to highlight. Meaghan, to you firstly, what happened with this photo?

Meaghan: So, basically, I just took a photo with Pip. It's an underwater shoot and the swimwear company sent us some betas just to the photos. Pip put up the photo in Instagram about a week after we did the shoot and a few days later, I woke up in the morning and I saw the photo that the swimwear company had put up and I first looked at it and I was like, "Hang on a second. That looks a bit different to the original that I had seen." And then I realized that it was completely different, so I quickly came back to the original photo and I saw that they had practically cut me in half. It was pretty mind blowing. I think my jaw dropped for about five minutes. I was really, really taken aback that they felt the need to do that, and that they could take mine and Pip’s creative property and alter it to… because what they thought would fit into their cultural ideal of what beautiful was.

Interviewer: And you called them out on it, didn't you? You made it public.

Meaghan: Yeah, so I sent them an email before I posted the photo but I put two photo comparisons together and I posted on Instagram and just talked about how I felt about the issue because it's something really important to all three of us. And I think growing up in a household with my dad as who he is. It's kind of been drilled into me that you know, have a good positive body image and it's just the way that I live my life. So I felt like it was so important to tell everyone what happened and just because people need to know that that's not what people look like. And magazines and photos, it's just they're altered and it's really important for young girls and young guys to know that that's not something for them to strive for because that's a photo of me and it does not even... It's not me. That doesn't look like me.

Interviewer: It's quiet different isn't it? And Dr. Rick has even said you work to help people, accept their own bodies, be comfortable in their own skin but really the reality of the fashion industry is that this type of Photoshopping is not considered unusual.

Dr. Rick: No, no it's not. It's really snuck up on us really as a society. I think that this is a bit like a death by a thousand cuts. It's been slow, but boy it really made a huge difference. It makes a huge difference to so many people. For few people it might not make much difference to, but we are bombarded by with so many images now that are altered. That so many people are just thinking what they're seeing is real, and it makes such a difference to people's self-esteem and how they feel about their body and body image. There was a research say that just simply look at... getting people to look at house and garden images, just 20 of them. versus fashion magazine images, just 20 of them. Well I found just with watching... looking at 20 images of that fashion magazine that was enough to make them feel depressed and anxious. We know that the research shows this does make a big difference to people, and when they're bombarded with those images so I really think it's very important that we make the community more aware of what they're seeing is not real. I think the direction we definitely can go is that magazines really owe it to their readers to say in some way that what they're seeing is not the real person, that has been altered and I would really encourage magazines to take a step on this, take a stand and at least put on the bottom of the photo, on the image, "This photo has been altered." or "This photo has been Photoshopped." I think that would be a great first step to really help the community.

Interviewer: The swimwear company itself apologized. They said that "We meant no disrespect for Photoshopping the image, but unfortunately like most magazines, media and images you see on here, girls have been retouched." They admitted such that they, they did the Photoshopping. Apart from really getting magazines to give that admission, do you think we should be policing it? It should be self regulated, do you think Dr. Rick?

Dr. Rick: Self regulation often in my experience doesn't work that well, but I think we should start with that and I think that the amount of response that we've got, all three of us have got to the issue already. When Meaghan shared what had happened with me, I popped it on my Facebook page and I was blown away. I'm not sure what the definition of gong viral is, but in my world, it went viral and I was amazed at the positive feedback that both girls, Pip who took the photograph and Meaghan in terms of standing up for the cause and standing up for the issue. I think the time is right. The community is really wanting to take this anymore and they're aware how badly this affects particularly young people, but people of all ages.

Interviewer: Yeah, they picked the wrong family really, didn't they with this one?

Dr. Rick: They did.

Interviewer: You took that original photograph. Did you retouch images that you take in any way?

Pip: I retouch to a certain degree, definitely not to that degree. I enhance image to make it look a little bit brighter, just to bring out the colors but altering someone's body image like that is just not heard of in my work.

Interviewer: You've got personal experience having here with the impact that body image issues can have particularly on your health, it can be dangerous, can it?

Pip: Yeah, most definitely. I come from a competitive rowing background. If you relate that to something like the fashion industry, there's all this competitiveness to so sort of conform to a certain look, whether it be weight, height... your visual impact on society and it's all related. I had a personal experience with it and this is very much similar to that.

Interviewer: You suffered from anorexia, didn't you as a teenager?

Pip: Yeah, I did. Yeah.

Interviewer: Well, you take beautiful images. The original photo you took was absolutely stunning and I have no idea why they thought they needed to retouch it in any way shape or form because Meaghan, you're beautiful woman and we thank you guys for highlighting the issue because I think calling out is the first step. All right. Good on you, thanks for joining us this morning.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This clip is by the Australian show "Today."

Sep 03, 2014

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