Don’t mind the gap!

Edited 1 June:

I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the response to this post. Who knew that a little rant about imperfect photos and memories would be shared so widely and generate such interest.

The photo company involved have been really honest, explaining that a number of staff had been seriously ill and it had been stressful dealing with this and training new staff. The staff member who swapped in his “2016 mouth” now realises it was an error of judgement. It was sad to hear that in the past they have been criticised for NOT photo shopping out messy hair, bruises, cuts and stains on shirts.

The best thing has been the realisation that for the most part parents want these memories of their kids to be just as they are. Its also a good reminder to all of us – and especially to those of us with kids –  not worry about filters and photoshopping. Sharing photos should be about sharing authentic memories – even if they are a bit messy and wrinkled!

There is something amiss with the photo below. I’m not talking about the missing teeth on the left – that’s the right photo. The problem is the photo on the right.

Surely we have lost the plot when we start photo shopping an 8 year old’s gappy grin.

Arriving home from work yesterday, my excitement at finally receiving the boys’ school photos was quickly replaced by bewilderment. As I looked at the photos of our eldest, I thought – “I didn’t realise he still had teeth when the photos were taken”.

In the world of a primary school Mum, and one whose term two started with both kids down with chicken pox in week one, photo day in term one seemed a lifetime ago.

But then I looked at the family photo and his class photo – and there he was. Gappy McGapster (as he currently calls himself) in all his glory.  At first, I thought they’d given us last year’s photo – but then I looked closer. Nope. His mouth had been photo-shopped with what looked like last year’s baby teeth swapped in.

Some people might have been angry at this point but I was just baffled. Why would anyone think to do this? At what point did missing teeth because something to be “fixed”?

Body image has not been something we have had to worry about too much yet with two young boys. But having recently finished Mia Freedman’s new book Work Strife Balance, I was reminded how often we are confronted with unreal, photo-shopped images.

While I did turn a blind eye to the guy in our local photo shop in Vietnam touching up my passport photo a few years ago, I’m too lazy to filter or alter my own social media images.

But this wasn’t touching up the light on a sunset or brightening up the group shot to see everyone better.

This is a kid who didn’t lose a tooth until he was almost seven. He’s not embarrassed by the gaps and wonky teeth, he’s excited because lost tooth = gold coin. He doesn’t notice the crooked new teeth because he’s a kid and he is more interested in basketball, hockey, Netflix or finishing his collection of Marvel disks – and what he can eat next.

img_4326.jpg
Year 4 – buck teeth, centre part and a skivvy. It was 1983!
I had really bucky teeth as a kid (my Year Four photo above is a good one!) While kids can be awful, and reciting a poem called Butterflies before I got braces probably didn’t do me any favours, I love looking back at those old photos. I want my son to be able look back over all his school photos and see how he has changed.

And while some might blame social media for this obsession with “perfect” photos, for me, social media – especially Facebook came into its own last night as I shared my “WTF” moment. Not only did it save me from publicly railing against the company, but sharing it with my friends and then with the wonderful community that Mrs Woog has created made me realise this was something really quite weird – and wrong.

But instead of getting angry, I shared my bafflement and quietly send a pretty measured message to the company.

I went to bed giggling at some of the exchanges I’d had with friends and strangers and woke up to a very apologetic message from the company agreeing it was wrong, promising it wouldn’t happen again and attaching the original photo (with reprints to come). There was no excuse made which made me think this was not the norm and so I was happy to leave it at that (who knows why someone thought it was a good idea). I let the school know (and had a chat with the completely flabbergasted principal).

I am glad I called them on it and while I heard a few similar stories from others, I feel pretty confident it’s not the norm and best of all, there didn’t seem to be anyone out there agreeing that this was a good idea.

But had I not said anything, who is to say it wouldn’t become the norm?  It was also important for our son to know we love him as he looks now. Accepting the photo-shopped photo says to him that we think there is something wrong with how he looks.

Our kids are growing up with so much technology that for them that perhaps we do have to remind them (and ourselves) of the importance of imperfect authentic photos and memories – gappy teeth and all!

Published by

angepickett

I started this blog almost 3 years ago when we first arrived in the Barossa Valley. I've always wanted to write and I wanted to share my experience of my career change, our move to this beautiful wine region and discovering my next adventure. After 15 years as a public servant working in Canberra, Beijing, China and Hanoi, Vietnam, I decided it was time for a career change and more importantly, a lifestyle change. In 2014, we left Hanoi and headed to the Barossa Valley in South Australia with a dream of a more fulfilling lifestyle in one of Australia's premier food and wine regions. My husband and I both work in the wine industry - where my job could be described as anything but making the wine. In 2017, I decided to wind-up the consulting business I established in 2015 and focus on learning as much as I could about the wine industry and writing - both on this blog and a memoir of our time in Vietnam. This blog is an opportunity for me to share my writing - about everything from motherhood, to career change, fitness, travel and our vine-change/career change experience.

27 thoughts on “Don’t mind the gap!”

  1. Authenticity- that’s a great thing to teach a child. How many of us lose ourselves by following others’ ideas of who/what we should be, and then spend much of our adult lives trying to reclaim our lives.

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  2. I can’t believe they photoshopped the teeth gap out! Some of the photos and video I treasure most of my children are the ones with missing teeth. It’s a significant time in their lives, a ‘right of passage’, and to me the look is adorable!
    I’m glad you called them on it. It’s really not acceptable – for so many reasons!

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  3. man, thats weird. I can’t believe they’d do that. But yet I can. Also noticed you are in SA. Me too! Nice to see fellow SA bloggers! Hello!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Turns out is was an innocent mistake and someone thinking she was doing the right thing. All fixed now and hopefully it’s made people think a bit about what they want from their kids’ photos

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello
    I have read about this and the in the Sunday mail and I am confused. I have been in the school photography industry for 25 years in SA and I know of no company that would take the liberty of doing this . Its a well known industry taboo to re touch school photos even on request. This type of publicity is very damaging to our industry. Were are fully aware of the importance to keep it real with school photos , our whole industry is based on happy tooth smiles. I think you should provide some more detail here, what was the name of the company? what was the reason given as to why they would re touch your sons photos. I would hate to think that this was a beat up designed to bring attention to your blog Angie.. I thin k you owe it to the school photography industry to provide more detail please.

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  5. Just a footnote to my previous post. When photographing students of this age group on a day to day basis photographers are used to seeing 75% of the kids in that age bracket with missing front teeth. If school photographers were to undertake the task of re touching front teeth they would be at it 24 hours a dat 7 days a week, its time consuming expensive ,pointless and guaranteed to cause offence. Why would anyone do it??. Sorry this needs some clarity Angie. I await your response.

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  6. Apology I have done some extensive research through a number of industry contacts and it is my understanding that this did in fact occur as Angie has said. It seems a person who was suffering some health issues did make a technical error and mistakenly altered the wrong image has since rectified the situation on being altered by Angie. Angie is quite correct and this highlights the importance of kids appearing as they are. I withdraw the previous posts on this matter

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    1. Dear Martin

      Thanks for your comments and follow up. I certainly never intended for this to suggest that all photographers did this. When I wrote the post, I was reflecting on the fact we are so often bombarded by perfect images in social media and I couldn’t believe that would extend to a school photo. I didn’t name the company because rather than being a regular practice it was an error of judgement. But as I pointed out in my addition to the post, they have in the past been expected to photo shop images by parents and schools – which I think is really sad. I was also surprised – and sad – to realise some companies provide this option at an extra cost. And sadly, I have had numerous parents share photo shopped images.

      I have been surprised by the coverage of this story but hopefully it makes more people think about their own images they share. And parents will think twice about requesting for school photos to be altered. After all, school photos provide such a special memory – bruises, gappy teeth, messy hair and all.

      Thanks again for your comments – and for taking the time to follow up.

      Kind regards

      Angela

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  7. No thank you Angie. As stated I was shocked to see this story because as a person with 25 years in the industry I know the importance of keeping it real. In fact a previous advertising campaign of our featured a photo of a young lad with a glorious 7 cm gap between his front teeth that we nicknamed “the toothless terror’. The pimples the braces the gaps thats what school photos are all, about. That is why I just couldn’t believe that anyone in our industry would take such a liberty. Turns out this was a simple mistake and I am glad that you got mot the bottom of the issue and have accepted that this was just a simple mistake and not a policy as such. Some people would take such an opportunity to sensationalise the issue and hang a provider out to dry for a simple mistake. You’ve raised an important point and shown real class . Well done.

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  8. Im so glad to read your story. Something similar happened with my daughters childcare photos. The company altered her hair and eyes. Her eyes ended up black which remindered me of a shark. Haha. The next year I asked for non touched up photos.

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  9. School photos are hideously ludicrously expensive without having to pay more for a photoshopper without being asked whether we wanted it! .

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