French Art School Blacks Up Teenagers In Advert 'To Make It More Appealing For US Students'
A clumsy attempt to show diversity among its students has ended in disaster for a French art school, which resorted to ‘blacking up’ teenagers in an advertisement to attract American pupils.
The Emile Cohl School in Lyon was accused of ‘blackwashing’ a photo after some white pupils in the original group picture were digitally modified to appear with darker skin, and black people were inserted in the shot.
The offensive ‘before and after’ images caused an uproar on social media, with people slating the art school for ‘discrimination and racism’ on Twitter.
Emile Cohl, a privately-owned institution, intends on expanding to Los Angeles by opening a new branch in America within the next four years, reports Rue89Lyon.
To help it drum up interest in enrolling, it started a promotional campaign via a new website for future American students.
The school forwarded the original group photo – snapped by a pupil – to an unnamed communications agency based in California, which then edited the picture before it was published on the website.
Sharp-eyed French pupils, however, quickly spotted the differences – four students have had their skin blackened, and two young black women have been integrated in the photo – and uploaded both images to Twitter.
The person posting the photos explained: ‘For the opening of Emile Cohl’s new wing in Los Angeles they fiddled the class picture by adding students and retouching some skin colours to simulate a class of more varied origins.'
Reactions to the before and after images ranged from those describing it as racist and ‘shameful’, to others who slammed the altered version as ‘poor quality’ photoshopping.
Antoine Rivière, the school’s director, has denied ‘any intention to manipulate reality’ and – although apologising for causing offence – also dismissed accusations on social media that the edited photo had been ‘blackwashed’.
Blaming the public relations failure on the Californian communications agency, he said: ‘This is an initiative of US providers; it’s something that has completely escaped us.
'As soon as we learned [of] the manipulation, we deleted the publication. We are well aware of the problem.’
The advertisement for the school’s branch in Los Angeles was part of its bid to secure money from American animation studios, reports The Local.