Daniel Friedman
2 minute read
14 Sep 2018
10:09 am

French college in blackface Photoshop drama

Daniel Friedman

An art school in Lyons has apologised for their unusual approach to dealing with a lack of diversity on campus - making white students look black using Photoshop.

Émile Cohl art college in Lyons, France, has been called out for using Photoshop to make white students look black in an attempt to appeal to Americans.

According to The Guardian, the school had sent photos and information to American PR agencies in an attempt to “highlight” the college.

One of the photos was doctored, with college director Antoine Rivière pleading innocence, saying the manipulation was done without the school’s knowledge or consent.

Some students from the school noticed the changes to the photos and took to social media to voice criticism, prompting an apology from Rivière.

Meanwhile, the college’s assistant director, Emmanuel Perrier, blamed an American communication company they had outsourced the work of promoting their school to.

“The communication company decided on its own to darken the skin of some students to add diversity,” he told CNN. “The communication campaign was made from the US.”

While the reference photo on the left is from a slightly different moment to the eventual Photoshopped image on the right, you can clearly see that at least one student has ‘become’ black.

The doctoring of the photo has been slammed and ridiculed on social media, with some comparing it to the controversial practice of ‘blackface,’ a historical practice whereby white people used make-up to represent a caricature of a black person, usually in the context of theatre.


The link between ‘blackface’ and college is a particularly contentious one, because although the practice is widely seen as unacceptable today, there have been various incidences of college students using make-up to portray themselves as black, often in an attempt at humour.

In June, an Australian university was scandalised after a photo involving both ‘blackface’ and Ku Klux Klan outfits.

In April, a fraternity at California Polytechnic State University was met with outrage after a photo of a member in blackface was circulated. In November 2017, a student at another US campus, Wheaton College, caused outrage for his choice of a ‘blackface’ halloween costume.

South African students have also fallen foul of it.

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