I love digital photography, but the ease with which we can alter photographs does make for some sticky situations.
Case in point: Wasatch High School in Utah.
As does most every other school in the country, Wasatch High School has a yearbook. The students are required to have their picture taken for the yearbook with the expectation that those pictures would be used in the yearbook.
Since it’s a picture of an individual, it’s assumed (there’s that word.) that any alterations of the picture would be by the dude or dudette actually in the picture. Even that’s a pretty slippery slope. The purpose of a yearbook photo is to capture a likeness of the various students as they looked that year.
What’s the use of taking a photograph of yourself and then digitally altering the hair color, scrubbing the zits off your face and filling in the gap between your two front teeth? Okay, sure you might like the look better, but it’s not who you are.
The idea of the school going in and altering the pictures without the knowledge or consent of the person in the picture is abhorrent to me, a complete violation of expectations of privacy and common decency.
Which, oddly enough, is the concept that the Wasatch High School administrators are hiding behind in their failed attempt to justify their intrusiveness in the yearbook photos.
See, the folks at the high school started making changes to the photos to fit in with some sort of ill-conceived, ill-defined value of decency. V-neck sweaters were given a makeover so they were square cut and exposed less bosom.
Tattoos were digitally erased. Young ladies wearing sleeveless dresses had digital sleeves clumsily attached to them.
All of which would be bad enough, but the changes were inconsistently applied. Some girls had their image modified and some didn’t, even though both might have had the same sort of dress on in their pictures.
“I feel like they’re shaming you, like you’re not enough, you’re not perfect,” sophomore Shelby Baum told the Associated Press on Thursday. Baum’s collarbone tattoo reading “I am enough the way I am” was removed from her photo. She also discovered a high, square neckline drawn onto her black V-neck T-shirt. Baum said she wants a refund or a new book with an unaltered photo.
Good luck with that, Ms. Baum. See, the school is climbing up on its high horse and claiming the high ground of morality. It’s immoral to wear sleeveless dresses or have plunging necklines.
It’s also saying the students had ample warning not to show up looking like a harlot.
On Thursday, the school issued a statement saying a four-by-five foot sign warned students on picture day that “tank tops, low cut tops, inappropriate slogans on shirts, etc. would not be allowed” and that “photos may be edited to correct the violation.”
Which, even if the sign was there (and that’s a big if as several parents who attended said there was no sign), it doesn’t give them the right to go in without permission and alter someone’s face or body. If the school didn’t like the student’s outfit, it should have sent the student home.
Where does this end? Do we lighten someone’s skin color the so he fits in better in a group photo? Eliminate a shirt that has colors associated with her religion?
What’s important is who you are, not what you’re wearing.
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