Cleo stands firm against anti-Photoshop protest

Cleo is not bowing to pressure from an activist group that wants the magazine to stop digitally altering pictures of young girls.

Last week, a petition was launched by a woman who urged the magazine to stop airbrushing young women. The petition has gained 12,000 signatures.

Cleo’s editor Gemma Crisp responded late on Friday by sending the protester the magazine’s list of guidelines on airbrushing.

The protester, Jessica Barlow, is working on a project to launch her own magazine, Brainwash Magazine, with a focus away from the typical women’s magazine topics of ‘sex, boys and appearance’.

Crisp has not responded to a number of calls from Mumbrella. However, ACP also sent Mumbrella its guidelines on airbrushing by way of a response.

The rules read as follows:

CLEO understands it’s a role model to its readers and takes its use of PhotoShop very seriously, which is why we follow these retouching guidelines:

When it comes to retouching, like most other magazines, CLEO uses PhotoShop to:
• Neutralise colours to appear as close to real life as possible and for consistency
across the magazine.
• Enhance, contrast or brighten colours to bring image closer to real life.
• Extend photos to reach required 5mm bleed.
• Lighten & darken images behind text for legibility.
• Remove any temporary skin marks, such as bruises or scratches (NOT natural lines, freckles, moles, etc).
• Lighten shadows, where the lighting has had too much of an unnatural effect on the skin tone.
• Correct colour casts.

When it comes to retouching, CLEO does NOT use PhotoShop to:
• Change the body shape of any person photographed for the magazine.
• Remove/airbrush natural lines, freckles, or any permanent features, unless
specifically requested by the person photographed for the magazine.

Cleo also pointed out that a large number of images in the magazine are supplied by picture agencies and have been retouched before being supplied. This is “beyond Cleo’s control’, the rules state.

The rules continue:

CLEO cannot reverse any of these changes and effects placed on the images supplied, and there is often no alternative image to use. When it comes to covers, approval to run a celebrity on the cover will not be granted by their publicist unless the image has been retouched.

Barlow responded with a letter asking the magazine to go further than its current rules on airbrushing.

In the letter, Barlow said:

I really appreciate that you have a policy regarding the photoshopping of images and seem to be aware of some of the problems associated with this. I don’t believe it is ignorance that is seeing thousands of people signing my petition, but rather a desire to see you go further than what you currently do.

She added:

I understand that you have little or no control over digital alterations that are made to images you source externally, although you surely have the option of sourcing images from elsewhere or applying your image alteration policy to externally sourced images.

Barlow suggested that Cleo take the following measures to change its policy:

  • A commitment to showing diverse representations of beauty — including images that haven’t been digitally altered – both in your own photo spreads and on the cover of the magazine. I think it is important that ANY girl can pick up a copy and see a girl inside who looks somewhat like her. I’m talking about size, yes, but also diverse ethnicities and abilities.
  • Clearly labelling images, even if sourced externally, that have been digitally altered. This would help young women understand when the beauty we’re seeing is fake, and when it is not. This is important because otherwise we are looking up to and aspiring to ideals that can never be achieved. I’m sure you can relate to how damaging this can be.

Cleo has yet to reply to the letter.

Barlow’s The Brainwash Project website contains a video explaining her stance of body image and young women.

The news comes as a girl has publicly complained about her treatment by Cleo magazine during a shoot for a weight loss program.


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