Update: This article has been edited. A previous version incorrectly implied that slimming and enhancing add-ons were offered for University of York graduation photos. Nouse wishes to apologize to Success Photography for this incorrect implication.
A number of York students have expressed outrage at the news that the company engaged by YUSU to take graduation pictures offers photo re-touching to customers’ faces and figures for up to an extra £10 on orders at other establishments.
Success Photography, with whom all students requesting a graduation photo must place an order, offers five customising options at its checkout, including the controversial “Digital Complexion and Smile Enhancement” and “Digital Gown Slimming” features.
The cosmetic adjustments are grouped with the options to purchase a “Bonus pack”, “Digital photo” and “Gloss paper”.
“Digital Complexion and Smile Enhancement” costs an extra £7.95, and according to the website, “removes all imperfections such as blemishes, redness and shine, leaving your skin looking smooth and healthy”. In addition, it may “enhance the whiteness” of the subject’s smile.
The “Digital Gown Slimming” feature is a little steeper at an additional £9.95, and is designed to compensate for the apparently “bulky and unflattering” nature of the traditional graduation gown.
Success Photography gives the option: “With advanced digital technology we can reduce the gown’s appearance making it more fitting to your shape.”
YUSU Women’s Officers Mia Chaudhuri-Julyan and Lucy Robinson expressed their surprise and disgust at the company’s promotion of what some have called ‘body shaming’, stating: “We are truly shocked and saddened by the idea that male, female and non-binary students would be made to feel that they are ugly unless they conform to these artificial standards of beauty.
“Being slim is not necessarily a sign of health and strength, and having ‘perfect’ blemish-free skin is unrealistic. None of us are dolls, we are all living and breathing humans. We should be celebrating every graduating student for their fantastic achievements and celebrating life itself. We believe that beauty comes from within and that every human face is wonderful.”
One York student also stated: “That is body shaming, it is unnecessary, it’s also demeaning and disregards the academic achievement that’s supposed to be the bloody point and makes it all about vanity, making it seem as though 3 years of academic progress takes a back seat to making you look slim in photos.”
Ben Leatham, YUSU President, told Nouse while the company do offer such ‘enhancements’, they are not permitted to promote these features to York students. He commented: “Success are specialist graduation photographers used by the University of York and several other UK universities. The company has offered digital enhancement packages in the past but has confirmed it does not offer or promote gown slimming or complexion enhancement to University of York students.”
A spokesperson for the University has also since responded to a student on Twitter with the comment: “Thanks for your concern. ‘Digital slimming’ will not be an option for graduation photography.”
Success Photography came under similar fire from young people in 2014, when recent graduate Sophie Gadd noticed the additional options for cosmetic change. In retaliation, one student tweeted: “That’s disgusting they’re proud to photograph their graduates and give them a complex at the same time….damaging.”
Another agreed, “this is the most depressing thing i’ve seen in a longtime.”
Nouse has approached both the University and Success Photography for comment.