By Lucy Harding
A topless photograph of a female celebrity going viral is hardly ground breaking or even mildly surprising news in our present day, celebrity obsessed culture. Where images of this kind may have become a norm of our society, what is surprising is that a topless photograph of a high profile actress has the ability to speak an entirely positive message about femininity, body image and self-esteem whilst sparking a powerful feminist debate. But that is exactly what the recently published topless photograph of Keira Knightley has done.
Back in August, Knightley posed for the front cover of Interview Magazine, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier, which may initially sound like a controversial career move for the famously private actress. But the award-winning star has this week explained her reasoning behind the photo shoot, which was to protest against the media’s corrupting influence on our expectations of femininity. In a recent interview The Imitation Game star revealed that she agreed to the topless images on the term that no photo-shopping or retouching of the photos was to take place, stating that, “I’m fine doing the topless shot so long as you don’t make them any bigger or retouch.”
Describing women’s bodies as a “battleground” Knightley claims that “photography is partly to blame” as “our society is so photographic now, it becomes difficult to see all of those different varieties of shape.” A statement that I feel everyone can relate to. The anti-photoshop debate is hardly new, with the pressures felt by the younger generations to look like the models in the magazines, being historically linked to the prevalence of eating disorders and low self-esteem in the youth. But this latest rebuke of the way the media presents celebrities is a bold move with the potential to bring about real change.
As a protest against the damaging effects that photo enhancement has upon self-esteem and body image, the former face of Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle campaign has boycotted the distorted version of ‘normality’ that the media presents. Fighting back against the unrealistic ideals presented to us, Knightley’s brave move dismisses the expectations and aspirations of women to be a certain size with voluptuous curves and no cellulite.
Previously the victim of attacks over her slender physique, the Pride and Prejudice actress explains that in the past her body has been “manipulated so many times for so many different reasons, whether it’s paparazzi photographers or for film posters.” An example of the manipulation she refers to is back in 2004, where Knightley’s chest was dramatically enlarged for the promotional poster of her film King Arthur, which caused much controversy and is something that the actress revealed that she was “shocked” at herself. The star is not the first to speak out against the photo-shopping and digital enhancement of images with supermodel Gisele Bündchen and Beyoncé speaking out about the alteration of their images in the media.
The before and after images of Knightley in 2004 film, King Arthur’s, promotional poster
Claiming that “it does feel important to say it really doesn’t matter what shape you are”, Knightley has championed self confidence and is promoting a healthy attitude towards women’s natural bodies in what is being described as an empowered feminist stand. The result of the Interview Magazine cover? A refreshingly natural, un-enhanced image of the female body circulating in our media, a reminder to us all of what really is ‘normal’ and a celebration of our natural selves. If more women in the media were to follow suit the extreme digital enhancement of photographs could be a thing of the past, with more natural images of this kind becoming the commonplace and the pressures we feel to look a certain way becoming eradicated.
Lucy is a third year English student and aspiring journalist. Follow her on Twitter @lucyeharding