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Public Editor

What's appropriate or not for photos in The Globe? Add to ...

After being away, I’m catching up this week with a few related or unrelated comments from readers about photos of bodies (portraits, clothed or otherwise).

I wondered last week if many people would complain when I saw the nude self-portrait painting of the exceptional realist Canadian painter Alex Colville used as a photo on Thursday’s front page.

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In fact, there was only one reader who said she was shocked and dismayed. That suggests to me that most readers had the same reaction I did – that it was a fascinating portrait of an aging body and a good representation of his work, as the headline "Alex Colville, ever a realist" suggests.

In a similar vein, another reader wondered why anyone would be bothered by or make fun of Geraldo Rivera’s tweeted self-portrait of his 70-year-old torso. This Talking Points column headlined in print “Keep it in the vault” says the world responded with “ridicule and shock.” One reader wrote that the column “shows a ‘tipsy’ Geraldo Rivera in his recent, revealing Twitter photo. As the column notes, Rivera's waist-up display of aging flesh spurred Internet ridicule. There's much that Rivera might be shamed for – but for showing us a 70-year-old torso? Maybe it's our shaming of the elderly that needs to be kept in the vault.”

And finally, there was a question raised about a compelling photo showing B.C. Premier Christy Clark standing at a podium. Only the bottom of her skirt, her legs and high heels were seen as she faced an audience of largely men. This was a Talking Points feature on readers’ letters from the July 13 Focus section. The reader wondered by the photo was published. “Has the Globe ever published a lower back side of any premier when making whatever speech,” the reader wondered.

I told the reader that I thought the contrast of a woman's legs – a woman in power, as a leader – facing so many men in the audience was interesting and evocative. To my mind, at least, the image of a woman's legs is not sexualizing her, but instead drawing the point that she is a female premier. It was a good counterpoint to the article, which referred to a British study that found women know less about politics than men.

The reader replied that a photo of her shoulders and head would have been as powerful if not more so. “How many photos of mens' legs and bottoms have you seen in that context ? After all ,women 'face' the audience with their faces not their hips," especially from behind a lectern, the reader wrote.

An interesting debate. If you have thoughts on this or anything else, please send me an e-mail at publiceditor@globeandmail.com

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