When the Lyon-based Émile Cohl art school wanted to advertise in the U.S., they published a group photo of their students on the American version of the website. But it all got terribly wrong when they were busted for photoshopping the students’ skin to make it appear darker. Apparently, it was an attempt to “add diversity” to the image, and the school got under fire when a former student tweeted the two versions of the image.
Kelsi Phụng, who reportedly attended the Émile Cohl art school, posted the story on Twitter on behalf of a friend who wishes to stay anonymous. She adds that the image was posted for the opening of the new wing of Émile Cohl in Los Angeles, and that “they have edited the class photo by adding students and retouching some skin colors to simulate a class of more varied origins.”
La photo de base est trouvable sur leur twitter en plus, mon dieu pic.twitter.com/HzF9PVUghe
— Ameliabrador (@ameliabrador) September 9, 2018
When you take a quick glance at the two photos, you may not notice anything strange, because there are so many people in them. But at a closer inspection, it’s obvious that some students have had their skin darkened in Photoshop. And what’s more, the others were completely replaced by someone else, and two people were digitally added to the photo:
Mdrr j'ai hurlé fort c'est pas possible là pic.twitter.com/HJU079ywH1
— purple rain (@_hogwartstyles) September 8, 2018
Mais c'est pas possible d'être nul à ce point…. Pffff pic.twitter.com/1ZiplWnVTB
— Bérénice Martin (@toxikcherry13) September 10, 2018
— lagenevoise1 (@genvoise) September 13, 2018
The students were the first to notice the terrible Photoshop job in the photo. And as you can imagine, the story quickly went viral on Twitter. CNN writes that the school has apologized for the incident and blamed it on the U.S. communications company that was in charge of the campaign.
Emmanuel Perrier, assistant director of the art school, told CNN that the school board took the photo down as soon as some students alerted them to it. He added that the website went public on 5 September, and it was taken down on 7 September. Judging from the fuss it caused, it was already a bit too late.
According to CNN, Perrier refused to disclose the name of the communications company. However, he reportedly confirmed that the school would terminate the contract with them. “American law is complex, but we don’t want it to stop there, we would like to file a complaint,” he said.
Whoever was in charge of the campaign has made so many mistakes that I don’t even know where to start. First, I guess we can call this fail false advertising. Then, darkening someone’s skin to make them appear black is certainly something we can discuss in terms of ethics. Also, this could severely damage the school’s reputability. And lastly, whoever was in charge of the photo manipulation has done a really crappy job.