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Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Artistry or Audacity: A Yearbook Photo Controversy

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                We’re all familiar with the significance of the time honored tradition of the published yearbook.  At that time in our lives with all the problems in the world just beginning to hit us (relationships, school, playground politics), we might not even really notice it, or perhaps we react like Melissa Joan Hart in “Can’t Hardly Wait” just taking the whole concept to an entirely new level of giddiness.  No matter how you felt about it at the moment, it is undeniable that those photos in that particular book of faces will in a way define your time as a youth.  In that regard, shouldn’t you have the freedom to put anything you like into the pages of that publication especially when it involves you and how you would like to be remembered…as long as it’s not offensive, of course?  That’s exactly what 18-year-old Sydney Spies thought when she submitted a particular photo to the yearbook editing staff in Durango, Colorado, a piece of photography that garnered quite a bit of controversy.

Sydney submitted the following photo to her school’s yearbook staff, which was initially accepted and then suddenly rejected after Christmas break.

So, from there she turned in another photo…

This was also rejected.  Both photos were deemed too revealing.

               The school stated that they had a standard to uphold citing a precedent of another case involving a young man that submitted a shirtless picture of himself in a previous incident.  They rejected that because it risked the reputation of their publication.  Understandably, school yearbooks aren’t traditionally that freeform and creative.  Take it from a Catholic school boy…I know…they wouldn’t even let me wear my favorite leather jacket and sunglasses…plain solid color slacks and polos…not cool, dude…but hey, an educational institution has rules and standards.  That gets us prepared for life in society under the rule of law.  Sure, I get the point of view. 

Sydney argues however that the aesthetic spirit behind the photos were for the purpose of showcasing her interests, which many other students did through their own photos.  In her case, it happened to be modeling.  She believes the school administration was the cause of the ultimate decision against her photos, which she found fault in.  To support her argument, she referenced Colorado Statue which states "students of the public schools shall have the right to exercise freedom of the press” and “no expression contained in a student publication, whether or not such publication is school sponsored, shall be subject to prior restraint."  Thus, Sydney feels unjustly treated by the school in what she describes as censorship of her self-expression. 

 Here’s the major clincher in the issue though…the school is willing to let the photo run after all of this…yeah, for $300 bucks on the ad page…so, what was the issue again?  I mean, it’s getting into the book after all the back and forth.  It may not be on the main photo pages but come on now…you really can’t say that being in the back of the book or on some ad page that this photo is like so not going to be any “less offensive” or observable…yeah right…might even be more visible with everyone flipping over to the back to get those signature pages signed, assuming both the ads and the signature pages are at the back of the publication, which they usually are…if they aren’t, so what?  It still creates an enigma in reason and logic.  Why would a photo, which was deemed unacceptable to print at all, be reconsidered for, well…consideration…the monetary kind…for inclusion in another page of the same publication?  What precedent does this case create concerning this school’s standards? 

Anyway, ModelVanity fans, what do you think?  Do you think Sydney has been wronged by the school in this matter?  Do you think the school, if it is pushing a certain standard for its yearbook, is sending the right message to support its decision?

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