A school in Utah has decided whom it can impose its modesty regulations on, and has enforced it by judging, and using Photoshopped yearbook photos of its female students as a form of censorship. Censorship, is a funny thing; its lines of definition smeared in ambiguity, and its fingers far reaching as a form of control in many parts of life. It is, in essence, the suppression of things deemed, by God knows who, to be improper and unacceptable. This includes what you see, what you do, what you hear, what you wear, what you eat, and how you go about any of those things.
As photographers we deal with it continually; from being told where we can and can’t shoot, what’s acceptable as subject matter, what edits we can do etc, and the list continues. I’ve been on sets before where a very serious woman with a very serious frown has come around to tell me I had to sign a waiver because there was ‘real glass’ on set. And again once I was told I couldn’t drink in the studio in case I spilled a drop, “What would happen,” she said in horror, “if someone was to step in it, and slip and fall?!” I said, “Well, they’d probably have to stand up again.”
And so it is, that censorship has made ‘No’ the default answer/setting for much of life. A Wasatch High School in Utah has taken censorship to new heights for our country, and done something you’d more expect in a country governed by Sharia Law. Picture this; it’s picture day at school and your child, having scrubbed behind their ears, brushed their teeth and hair, and donned a favorite frock, pose brightly and charmingly for photos they’ll look forward to seeing and sharing in the yearbook. But the powers-at-be at school find their appearance to be in poor taste unbefitting the school, so they take it upon themselves to make them the modest versions of themselves that the school authorities find admissible. They do this by manipulating the images to add more clothing, or covering up a tattoo, or changing the cut of a top. This is precisely what’s happened.
Adding insult to injury, it appears that the edits were not consistent, and only certain students were subjected to the censorship and had their images retouched, even though the level of clothing and ‘exposure’ were the same. And I say retouched in the loosest of fashions because the Photoshopping was rubbish. Sophomore Kimberly Montoya was quoted,
My shirt was a cream color, and the color of the cover-up was completely white. It looked like white-out on my skin.
Students, unsurprisingly, aren’t pleased with the school’s actions. Many have expressed they had no warning the editing was going to be done, and were given no option to alter their look via retaking the photos, or to change attire at the time of the shoot. The school however, maintains they were in the right to do what they did since they put up a large enough sign which should have made the students aware that this was a possibility. This is according to Wasatch County School District Superintendent, Terry E. Shoemaker, who has further said, “We only apologize in the sense that we want to be more consistent.”
Thoughts as a Relatively Reasonable Human
Well this is a new one. Usually, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, Photoshop has been demonized for altering the images of people to fit a more pleasing, and sexual aesthetic, if not entirely true to form. I find this ordeal to be humorous because it’s so absurd, and also terribly disturbing. It’s not a nightmare on its own, but what it represents is insidious. I actually find it more harmful than the Photoshopping done for magazines. These are normal, young kids, who are being publicly shamed.
I’m unsurprised The Rape Recovery Center Executive Director has accused the administrators of “modesty shaming,” and I won’t be surprised at all if they get sued. My entire school life was spent in a suit uniform, so I understand wanting to exude a certain image and prepare youngsters for work-life. But this handling, is juvenile at best. This should’ve been dealt with much differently, and probably best at the point at which the photos were taken.
It’s all so backwards, and wouldn’t surprise me if it was part of some Machiavellian agenda to win favor of some population’s vote. If you take a look at some of the articles on the subject, spend some time in the comment section and what’s most interesting is the set of folk who actually applaud the actions of the school. This means this event will attract all those types of people to that school, and these are people I would hate to be around. This is great, because it’ll vacuum them all to one spot and when the rest of us know where they’ll be, we can go anywhere else….
What are your thoughts on the matter?
And muslin backgrounds? Really? Still?