Statesman

Altered senior yearbook photos spark controversy

Many+have+expressed+frustration+at+the+stark+differences+between+the+unmodified+senior+portraits+%28left%29+and+the+edited+yearbook+photos+%28right%29.+The+student+pictured+above+is+Joey+Hong%2C+whose+photo+was+the+cause+for+an+online+petition+against+student+photoshopping.+
Many have expressed frustration at the stark differences between the unmodified senior portraits (left) and the edited yearbook photos (right). The student pictured above is Joey Hong, whose photo was the cause for an online petition against student photoshopping.

Many have expressed frustration at the stark differences between the unmodified senior portraits (left) and the edited yearbook photos (right). The student pictured above is Joey Hong, whose photo was the cause for an online petition against student photoshopping.

Joey Hong

Joey Hong

Many have expressed frustration at the stark differences between the unmodified senior portraits (left) and the edited yearbook photos (right). The student pictured above is Joey Hong, whose photo was the cause for an online petition against student photoshopping.

Aman Grover, Managing Editor of Production

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Joey Hong ’16 grabbed his copy of the yearbook from a teacher’s hands, ran to the nearest table, and began flipping through the pages to look for his picture. He skimmed through the “H’s” multiple times, but to his dismay, his picture was nowhere to be found. Confused, he looked for his last name, “Hong.” When he found it, the picture lying above his name was of someone else.

Hong said that in the photo, the distance between his eyes was widened, his head was expanded, his bottom lip was removed, and that his East Asian skin was whitened. Dozens of other seniors reported similar issues with their photos in the yearbook.

“Altering the positions of salient facial structures ultimately alters the entirety of the person’s appearance,” Hong said. “It’s not them anymore.”

Many students have expressed anger on social media towards the company responsible for the photos, Visual Image Photography (VIP), claiming that the edits were made to whiten the faces of students belonging to minority groups. Alternatively, there are who others don’t mind the changes made to their photo.

“I believe they tried their best to make everyone as beautiful as possible, but I guess that ultimately, it didn’t work out because everyone has started bashing on VIP,” Chan Lee ’16 said. “But personally, I think they did a job well done on some people, especially for me.”

Whether for the better or the worse, the drastic changes weren’t caused by anyone manually editing each of the photos. Instead, a batching software, which is used to edit several hundred images at once, altered several of the photos, VIP photographer Steven LaMaster said.

“We went back individually to make sure that none of the photos were ruined,” LaMaster said, “It looks like we missed a few where the facial structure was slightly altered, so it comes down to human error. It’s something we’re truly sorry about.”

The changes made to Hong’s photo received significant attention on social media, and a petition under his name, requesting that student photoshopping be stopped, has garnered over 200 supporters.

If requested, VIP makes more noticeable edits such as weight removal for customers who are ordering business portraits. For students, however, they will only remove minor blemishes, which is the industry standard, LaMaster said.

“Obviously it’s unfortunate that some senior photos, including mine, were ruined, but I think it’s also great that this has started a dialogue on modern beauty standards and whether photos really should be edited,” Hong said. “I think people are going to be a lot happier in their own skin if we can deal with these standards accordingly, because they’ve done nothing but exacerbate racial divides by perpetuating insecurities and forcing conformity towards a typically white appearance.”

Lee believes that going forward, if any edits are made to a student’s photo, the student should have to specifically request it, instead of having edits be the standard.

VIP is currently looking into potentially similar changes in their policy, LaMaster said.

In the meantime, solutions for those affected by major changes to their photo are currently being looked into, Ted Goergen, director of Student Activities, said.

“Right now, we’re waiting to make sure everyone who wants to come forward can do so,” Goergen said. “One potential idea that we might end up using is giving students stickers of their unaltered photo so that they’d be able to cover their picture and we’d give them some for their friends as well.”

There have been very minor issues that have occurred in the past, but this is the first time that so many students have reported a problem. Stevenson is very pleased with how VIP has responded, as they haven’t tried to deny any blame and have immediately gotten to investigating solutions, Goergen said.

Hong says that he has contacted VIP in hopes of reaching an agreement on how the situation can be fixed, but has not received a response in the past two weeks.

“I think going forward, VIP should offer refunds to anyone whose photo was drastically altered, and they should say something to raise awareness about repressive societal beauty standards,” Hong said. “Oh, and about bad photo editing.”

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Altered senior yearbook photos spark controversy