Proud2Bme | Picture Day

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Picture Day

By Ellie Herman--Picture Day in high school was, for many, an anxiety trigger. After all, these were the photos our classmates would see at the end of the year in the yearbook, the photos our teachers would have in their class databases, and the ID photos we would show to enter R-rated movies and school football games.

We strategized which background to choose and which blouse to wear (one that wouldn’t clash with the chosen background and one that wouldn’t be worn by any other girl). We debated jewelry options, practiced our makeup for several days before, and smiled into our private bathroom mirrors every chance we got – toothy, wide, close-lipped? We worried about what our crush would think about our outfit and prayed that the weather would not ruin our hair. We hoped the school bully would wake up with a giant zit on her forehead, and we always reminded ourselves that Picture Retake Day was also coming.

Mantras were repeated, and we secretly were excited by the opportunity to dress up and be photographed. We were pleased with our mirrored selves, and knew deep down that so much preparation was unnecessary – we were beautiful as is.

One precaution we didn’t take was to strengthen our facial muscles so that our faces were thinner. I’m not sure how we neglected something so crucial, seeing as an unnamed girls’ high school not only retouched the girls’ photos but also reshaped their faces. Each girl’s face was made thinner in addition to the "normal" retouching of color and blemishes. These are the photos the girls have to represent them in the present, to verify their current identity, and the photos the girls will have to look back on in the years to come to remind them of their high school presentations. Is any of that valid when one’s face has been reshaped and recolored?

What I find most ironic is the fact that this all-girls high school is said to be one that places great emphasis on body positivity. “Love yourself,” “Be you,” “Accept yourself.” These are phrases that surely adorn posters through the hallways the girls walked through to the photographers’ station on picture day. That’s wonderful: tell the girls to be who they are and end with a sign noting that their faces will be thinned in the photos they’re about to take.

Suddenly the hours spent contemplating the perfect outfit, the multiple makeup sessions, the smiles, the thousands of prayers to the weather gods, and the self-love that resulted from these practices are made futile. The faces in the pictures will not even look like their owners, and no pride can be taken from these photos.

In fact, the message of the school here is that their natural faces are not up to standards. But to whose standards are we to measure up? When a high school decided to thin its students’ faces, it told them they have to look a certain way, to meet a certain ideal. It completely negates all its preaching of positive body image and self-respect. That is a more negative reflection of the school than publishing a yearbook filled with girls with rounded, natural faces.

About this blogger: Ellie M. Herman grew up in Selinsgrove, a small town in central Pennsylvania that boasts about its cows and high school football records. At present, she is attending Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, and will graduate with a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies in the spring of 2015. She hopes to pursue a career in counseling psychology, perhaps after attending graduate school. Cars and sports are two of her other interests. 

Also by Ellie Herman: 

Thigh Gap

For more on retouching and photoshop:

Retouched or Not?: New Software Can Tell

Why We Support the Truth in Advertising Act

Running from Vanity

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