Topless photos illustrate classless tabloid culture

Last week, the French magazine Closer published nude photos of Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton from a private vacation she and husband Prince William had in France. These photos revealed her sunbathing topless and William applying suntan lotion on her back. The Royal family has taken legal action and plans to sue the tabloid.

This brings up a common issue in the paparazzi world. Morally objectionable only begins to describe the photos the magazine ran. Despite the couple’s position in the royal family, photos of this nature serve no purpose but to slander those who’ve committed no wrong. Worse still, these photos did not serve any journalistic function, nor did they contribute to the political discourse of the country.

American celebrities are all too familiar with embarrassing, unfair — and often untrue — photos and reports. Lawsuits from entertainers like Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie fill courtroom dockets year-round. Not uncommon are altercations between photographers and stars, generally resulting in a lawsuit against the actors.

Undoubtedly, celebrities will always be in front of the camera. It comes with the fame. Nevertheless, it does not justify photographing and exposing the lives of people at the expense of their privacy.

Scandal like this does sell, and as long as it turns a profit — against all the filed lawsuits — it will continue. To a degree, it brings the lives of actors many emulate down to a level that is personal and relatable. The famous make mistakes like the rest of us.

These are the days when fame is equated with an “all-access pass” into the lives of the wealthiest and most talented people in the world.

The National Press Photographers Association’s code of ethics asks that photographers “treat all subjects with respect and dignity.” Although it states that a photographer should only “intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see,” the same decency should be applied to those enjoying their private lives, participating in acts that clearly have no public importance. True photographers demand full access only to ensure that public, not private, matters are conducted openly.

Photos published for explicitly malicious intent undeniably cannot be tolerated. A published and public photo, in a newspaper or tabloid, should illustrate a point of worthy discussion, not degrade the dignity of an individual who committed no act to warrant such an expose.

But tabloids have not seen the end of their days, even with onslaughts of lawsuits from individuals with a defamed reputation. This may be the culture in which we now live, but that does not mean we must accept it.