This summer I interned for a high fashion photographer Alexei Hay who had recently converted to be a Modern Orthodox Jew. In the span of a couple months I didn’t only learn about photography, but also about how to live a holy life following Judaism. Many in the industry found themselves puzzled when finding out that Alexei had transformed into a devout follower of Judaism, because of Alexei’s wild past in art world. He is a brilliant photographer and is a master in the art of film and digital photography. He has photographed many big name celebrities and has done a steady stream of personal work throughout the years, but has stayed humble as an artist. Alexei may be seen as a walking contradiction, but also he is a man of strong passions and beliefs in an occupation known to draw attention to sin.
Some of his work can be seen below:
Alexei opened my eyes to the many injustices of the photography world including the industry’s constant push for “Buttery Images” meaning images that have been highly manipulated by Photoshop and other forms of distortion. He brought to my attention that these photographs are not good to the general public and only create unattainable disillusion of the human body. Nearly 24 million people in America suffer from an eating disorder with the influence of the media being one of the leading causes for this widespread belief of figure perfection. Since images are so impactful I wanted to see if any standards have been put in place in media industry to censor unhealthy body images.
I did some research and found that Israel is leading the world in a stance against false or unhealthy body images in the fashion and advertisement industry. An article in The Atlantic mentioned,
“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.”
These regulations are no joke and include all domestic and foreign advertisements to clearly state the alterations to the body by Israeli law.
A big supporter of this law and a huge influence in the implication of it was Adi Barkan a big-name fashion photographer. The death of the famous Israeli fashion model named Hila Elmalich sent shockwaves through the fashion industry in Israel. It also caught the attention of Rachel Adato an Israeli parliament member who had a major role in developing the regulations that are now in place. Adato found the evidences to be undeniable for this law for example,
“In Israel, there are 1,500 new cases of eating disorders every year, and 10 percent of teenagers suffer from eating disorders,” she told me. Israel’s population is only 7.5 million, making the high rate especially alarming. ”
We also know that the first cause of death in the age group of 15-24 is anorexia, so when you hear those numbers, they’re frightening.” Although Israel has taken serious action the issues surrounding beauty and body image will continue to be an internationally problem without action from the industry, which has created it. No matter at least one small country has taken steps to no longer let common beliefs about beauty be about a incredibly thin body image.