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News & Insight

High School Photoshops Yearbook Photos To Make Girls Appear More ‘Modest’

By Kishore Sawh on May 30th 2014

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.

wasatch-utah-school-yearbook-photography-modsty-secy-shaming-10 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.”

[REWIND: Facebook Engineer Teaches Grads How to Steal Photos in Step By Step Guide]

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.

wasatch-utah-school-yearbook-photography-modsty-secy-shaming-11 wasatch-utah-school-yearbook-photography-modsty-secy-shaming-13 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?

Source: PetaPixel

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jeff Lopez

    This is really creepy! The originals aren’t even that bad. I couldn’t even imagine what was going through the administrator’s minds “Oh look at those shoulders, we need to do something about those shoulders.” Wrong on so many levels.

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  2. Greg Faulkner

    Absolutely ridiculous

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  3. Jacob Jexmark

    This is terrible… In more than one way.

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  4. Happy Tinfoil Cat

    Utah. Lived there 20 years. Not surprised. The only thing I’m curious about is who paid for the extra processing?

    Our school principal sent us home for wearing our new corduroy and jeans. Boys must wear suit-pants or slacks and girls must wear full length dresses. This was elementary school in a farm community and the rich self-righteous principal was out of touch with the community standards.

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  5. Cate

    Even more important, where the guys in the photos retouched? or just girls? What if I guy had worn no sleeves? I am really curious about that much as well. Not to mention that the girl whose photo was retouched and the girl whose photo wasnt who were wearing alomst the exact same thing – Is it because of the slick straight hair and lack of braces? Does the one with braces automatically not look ‘sexy’ or ‘whore-like’ or whatever they seem to think is wrong just because she has braces? I think as that girl, I’d be upset that my photo wasn’t ‘pretty’ enough to be retouched. This is ridiculous. IF their goal is to teach them to dress right for things, then do what a job would do and send them home to change. My boss isn’r going to photoshop me for my own sake – he is going to send me home or not hire me – Not babysit me and alter me for my own good.

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  6. Drew Pluta

    No well adjusted adult would look at those kids and think “wow that’s way too sexy.” Find out the names of the adults who initiated these steps and investigate them for child porn and sexual abuse. At very least they should face public ridicule. They openly admit that these children were sexually appealing to them and that alone is enough to suspect them of criminal perversion. Subject them to the consequences of their behavior.

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  7. Matt

    Is it just me or in the 3rd set of pictures it’s not even the same girl in the before & after?

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    • Adam

      It is two different girls. It is just showing the inconsistency. The one on the left made it into the yearbook without the sleeves being retouched. The one on the right was retouched. They had similar outfits yet they only chose to selectively retouch.

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  8. Hanssie

    I understand modesty and upholding a certain standard for your organization and I respect that they have standards. But that’s the thing about a standard, you must be consistent across the board. If they have such high standards for “modesty” then BEFORE the pictures where taken there should have been clear cut guidelines of what was and was not acceptable for the students to wear. After the fact, you’re right Kish, they could have had a picture retake day, but not this Photoshop roulette where some girls were Photoshopped and some not at all. In the second to last image, the girl’s were wearing an almost identical outfit.

    And the school’s sorry, not sorry apology is just fuel to the fire. The sad thing is they don’t see that they did anything out of the ordinary. And what did those kids learn? To be more modest? Not likely.

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    • Connor

      Your exactly right if the kids are allowed to wear the what they were wearing in the originals on a normal day of school there is no excuse for altering peoples images. This in my opinion was handled with very little to no professionalism.

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    • NursultanTulyakbay

      In the new story the superintendent did say that they kids were informed ahead of time that if their clothes didn’t meet the dress code that their photos may be edited. So I can’t fault them for this – other than the horrendous photoshopping job that was done. Also for not enforcing the photoshop dress code equally. The companies that get those gigs are the lowest bidders, so I guess you get what you pay for.

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