New Year, New Gear, Fresh Photo Opportunities With MPB

Discriminatory software ? and things


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
...Read More

Discriminatory software – and things

12 Jan 2022 7:29AM   Views : 544 Unique : 259


Last year, I read a series of items in New Scientist about the way that various types of racial discrimination are being researched. Why do black people have worse medical outcomes, educational outcomes? It’s not all easy material to read, but it is compelling – and it suggests to me that there are likely to be many other ways in which unintended bias occurs in this world.


More recently, Sajid Javid (for non-UK readers, he's the Secretary of State for Health here) has ordered a review of bias in medical devices, following a report that oximeters – those little things that clip onto your finger when you are in hospital – can overstate blood oxygen levels in ethnic minority patients. There are some anomalies in treatment regimes, as well that are apparently not based on scientific data.


I think I first noticed this a few years ago, when I was photographing a model called Aston. We talked about the results, and she said that a lot of photographers edited her pictures to lighten her skin. That struck me as heinous, given the lovely brown colour… Editing software tends to slim a broad face, as well.


We live in a world where many, many women buy the idea that they should have the looks of a plastic-surgery victim… Big boobs, big bottom, big lips – in the conventional and ugly trout pout. This is happening to women in all ethnic groups, but it doesn’t happen equally. For black women, there’s pressure to straighten hair and lighten complexions, and that doesn’t happen to pale, straight-haired people. Some singers seem to pale significantly as they become more famous.


I’ve said before that the thing about photographing many different people is that each person has their own beauty: when you are paying someone to be photographed, why should you then work hard to change their appearance?


dudler Plus
19 2.0k 1975 England
12 Jan 2022 7:33AM
Models are Aston Desire, Belle Noir, and That_Model_jasmine.

And a plea: we live in sensitive times, and it's easy to give offence unintentionally. That is most definitely not my aim, but I am white and male, and prone to the errors that can lead to. So if I've got anything wrong above in the attempt to make a plea for treating people better, please let me know, and suggest how I should correct it.
chataignier Plus
10 241 13 France
12 Jan 2022 9:27AM
Hear, Hear !!
dark_lord Plus
18 3.0k 836 England
12 Jan 2022 1:02PM
I have never, and never will, attempt to change someone's skin colour. On the one hand it's something that I wouldn't have considered, and by that I mean I take people as they are.

Photographic magazines used to (I guess they still do, I don't waste time and money on them these days) reinforce the uneducated bigoted views on skin colour with their attempts at 'exposing for good skin tones' in their 'portrait' articles, and ' good skin tone reproduction' in their reviews of films (using caucasian models of course). Given the bulk of their readership that was expected and never questioned. Growing up in a more ethnically diverse part of the country I saw, at least, severe shortcomings in their approach.

It works the other way too. I posted a picture of a fair skinned refjead model a while back and had one comment that she was too light. As I recall you did counter that claim John.
Evn within an ethnic group there are many variations in skin tone that, racism apart, means it's silly at the very least to consider any sigle skin tone as 'right'.

A good thought provoking blog.
AltImages 2 4
14 Jan 2022 3:19AM
Strange as it might seem, it's not even something that has ever occurred to me. And it's not even something that I was aware of. Maybe I'm just too technically oriented. As in the old days all I recall was worrying if the skin tones would end up the right part of the zone system, which is why I used an incident light meter. Maybe part of the issue with magazines had something to do with a mix of photographers using reflected light readings on slide film and magazine print houses not wanting blocked out shadows, I just don't know. Beyond that, as far as I'm concerned, I will often seek out darker skinned and black models such as Illy simply because their skin tones are much easier to work with for some styles of shooting, whereas models with pale skin to me create a problem that I have to work around.
thewilliam2 5 1.6k United Kingdom
14 Jan 2022 2:10PM
A couple of decades ago, one Asian portrait client commissioned a portrait of his daughter that was to be sent to her future husband's family. He asked me to lighten his daughter's skin so I did what he wanted.

Never let the truth spoil a good picture!
dudler Plus
19 2.0k 1975 England
14 Jan 2022 5:18PM
William -

That's deeply worrying in more ways than one!

But the customer is right, they say...
pablophotographer 11 2.1k 433
16 Jan 2022 1:38AM
Hi dudler.

Skin colour is a tricky issue. I have some vivid memories and horror stories.

I recall from an Oriental friend I had she liked her skin to appear brighter although I thought her skin colour was really beautiful.

At a wedding a bride was so much plastered white that her face looked scary. She was born white!

Black and white films can come as low contrast or hard contrast. When I shot a couple of a black gent and a white lady I used a low contrast film which reduced their colour difference. I thought since black and white is already an artificial perception of colours a bit of intervention would not be foul play. Sometimes tones come also affected during the printing process so life can turn really colourful.

I haven't had a black eye from anyone I shot so far so.. so far so good.

I noticed of a red hair tattooed model picture yesterday. I might be tempted to use a warmer light to give more redness to the whole frame overall. But I am unsure how the amount of blue ink on her would have looked like. 😶 As Confucius would have probably said: "Not my picture, not my problem". "Each to their own" as they say in the UK, right?
Karuma1970 10 1 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2022 9:44AM
Just having a skim through the past blogs series and saw this.

I've been married to my West Indian wife for forty three years (there are a couple of pictures of her up on my part of the site) now and one thing I do remember was how in the early days photographs of the two of us together were so difficult to get right. Either I was bleached out like some ghost or all detail was lost of her face in darkness. Much dodging and burning went on in the darkroom. Things seem far easier these days and it's just as well because our son is, of course, mixed race and our granddaughters take a random mix from English, Dutch, West Indian and Chinese. All beautiful skin colours and all perfect for their owners.

dudler Plus
19 2.0k 1975 England
17 Jun 2022 8:52PM
Wise words, Michael. I like the idea of skin colour being perfect for the owner!

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.