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We won’t airbrush our school photos – and here’s why

  • We won’t airbrush our school photos – and here’s why

Adam McGill, MD and Founder of Fizz Group, explains why he’s calling on other companies that offer school photography services to join them in implementing a ban on the airbrushing of children’s primary school photos…

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – but when it comes to the emotive issue of airbrushing, it’s very much in the eye of the ‘photoshopper’ and wider society’s search for human perfection.

The airbrushing of photos of adults within online and print media continues to be the subject of broad debate. When this practice is extended to children, however, particularly within the context of the traditional school photograph, we need a more focused discussion.

Stealing the innocence

The issue of airbrushing came wider attention lately, following national media coverage of mother Alexandria Norman’s fury at being offered the opportunity, for an additional cost, to ‘re-touch’ the school photos of her eight-year-old daughter Blake taken by a Hampshire-based photography firm.

She was left horrified after being offered the ‘photo re-touching service’, accusing the photography company of “Stealing the innocence of school pictures, threatening a positive body image and sending out the wrong message to children.”

Fizz Group shares Ms Norman’s views, to the extent that we will we refuse to airbrush photos under any circumstances – a stance that we would like to see extended across our industry.

Industry-wide ban
We are calling on all firms that provide school photography services to join us in adopting a self-regulating, industry-wide ban on the airbrushing of traditional school photos. At Fizz, we have never airbrushed a school photo before and never intend to. This applies to primary school children, right through to secondary school pupils.

The reason for this is quite simple: it really shouldn’t be an option. What kind of message are we sending to our children if we are telling them that a photo is only acceptable, or ‘more acceptable’, if it is showing them blemish-free and airbrushed?

Every child has distinguishing characteristics that make them who they are – their hair colour, skin colour, the shape of their nose, birth marks and blemishes. If we alter these, we are altering their identity, in effect changing who they are. There is no need, in my view, to consider ‘correcting’ an image in this way. It simply shouldn’t be an option.

Positive impact

Having spent time behind the lens and carried out school photography assignments myself, I have a good understanding of the photographic processes involved and the purpose that a school portrait serves.

The primary function of a school photo is for identification, often so that it can be referenced by the school for exams or in the event of an incident. Sales to parents are usually a secondary benefit. If a school photo were edited in any way, we would be failing in our principal aim of capturing an accurate record of how each child looks.

We refuse to airbrush school portraits under any circumstances, and always make this clear to any parents and schools using our services. If they wish to purchase the digital image and airbrush it themselves, then that is the parent’s choice – but we won’t do it, and would advise them not to do so either.

I think it’s important for the whole industry to takes a stand on this. By sending out a collective message that airbrushing at such a young age is wrong, we can help tackle the issues of negative body image and insecurity that airbrushing helps to foster – and in doing so, help to make a positive impact on the lives of both today’s young people and those of future generations.

For more information about Fizz Group, visit www.fizz-group.co.uk

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