A French art school sparked a wave of criticism and has been blasted as racist after it digitally altered a promotional photo by retouching skin colors to simulate a class of more varied origin for promotion in the US.
The photos before and after of the students from Emile-Cohl art school in Lyon, eastern France are somewhat reminiscent of the game ‘Spot the Difference’.
If you start looking attentively at the photo, you’ll see that a student in the first row, third from right, is given a tan. Also, a man in a black T-shirt has been darkened, as well as a woman in the fourth row.
One might wonder how that happened. It was initially the surprised students who discovered the altered photo and called it “blackwashing” on Twitter.
Posted last week on the home page of the US website of the future school, the photo has since been removed. A spokesman for the school has denied “any intention to manipulate reality” in this photograph. According Rue89Lyon (the website that first reported the news) these changes were apparently made by a US communication agency responsible for creating the website promoting the school in America.
Despite the removal of the photo, the changes quickly drew the ire of many on Twitter, with some calling it “unacceptable” and “shameful.”
“How could they dare do such a thing! This is ridiculous!” one person wrote.
The barrage of criticism resulted in the school releasing a statement in which it apologized for the photo. It explained that it deleted the picture and broke the contract with “the site provider.”
“We don’t need to manipulate images to demonstrate our openness to the world,” it said.