Active-wear brand Gymshark has provoked anger after a behind-the-scenes image from a recent photoshoot was leaked on Facebook. The image shows 7 models, all of which are no larger than a US size 4. It has since caused an outcry from women demanding representation of larger body sizes.
The behind-the-scenes photo was leaked last week after the brand’s promotional photoshoot in London. Despite obvious efforts towards inclusivity, many commenters felt that Gymshark had fallen short in this aspect.
The image clearly shows 6 caucasian models and one woman of colour. One model is in a wheelchair, which in itself is not something you see every day in advertising of this nature. It’s true though, that larger sizes and different body shapes are not being represented here in this one image. However, we do have to remember that it is just one leaked image and may also not be representative of the entire shoot.
But is it really a lack of inclusivity? Do two out of 7 strike as tokenism or are people just ‘what-abouting’? As photographers, how can we work towards better representation in our images, particularly when working with brands?
It’s an important question and one which anyone working in any type of commercial work should be asking. While portions of the media are quick to deride so-called ‘woke-ism’ and ‘cancel culture’, they aren’t likely to be going away anytime soon and usually come from the right intentions.
“We need to see how it works on larger bodies,” said one woman. “I’m not buying from a company that doesn’t represent larger people properly,” wrote another in a comment.
Others were quick to point out that Gymshark did in fact have other images on their Instagram feed that represented a more diverse approach to body shape and size, and one commented that she was happy to see a model in a wheelchair in a fitness wear advertisement for the first time.
Brands are usually very careful about how they choose models for shoots, to get the look just right. But are they missing a trick here? I guess it all boils down to the question ‘what will inspire people to buy their product?’ It sounds cynical but with commercial photography that’s really what we are doing. Perhaps there is a fine line between potential customers feeling represented and it being aspirational?
If I buy workout wear I might aspire to look like the women modelling the clothes, however, in my mind, I know that I will likely never achieve that, I mean let’s face it, I ain’t 21 anymore! If someone is looking kind of like me but just a little bit better then that might inspire me to make a purchase.
Fitness brands that don’t represent larger body sizes are potentially missing out on a broader customer base. If we want to inspire people to lead healthier lives they need to feel welcome in places to exercise, and not immediately excluded before they even set foot in a gym because they can’t find any decent clothes to work out in.
Ultimately, as photographers working with brands, we can only do what we can to increase diversity within our images. We often don’t hold all the power over these decisions, particularly on bigger shoots. Ultimately, we might just have to accept that we cannot include and represent absolutely everyone in one image, and we likely won’t be able to keep everyone happy all of the time.
As a photographer what is your point of view?
[Via News Au]