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23 Comments

news

Diversity, Our Photoshopped-In Strength

20090610diversity_horizontal.jpg
At left: the cover of the City’s FUN Guide, from its website. At right: the original stock photo, as used on Look4me.


Well, this is awkward.
For the cover of their Spring & Summer FUN Guide (a “Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation booklet filled with programs and services for people of all ages” distributed to “community centres, civic centres, libraries and City Hall after February 22, 2009″), the City of Toronto digitally altered a stock photo of a family to replace the tan-skinned father with a darker-skinned one, according to the National Post.


John Gosgnach, the communications director for the City’s social development division, admitted to the Post that the “African-Canadian person” was “superimposed…onto the family cluster in the original photo….the goal was to depict the diversity of Toronto and its residents.” Kevin Sack, the City’s director of strategic communications, agreed with the goal, citing a directive to accurately represent Toronto’s diversity in its publications. “[T]he policy says ‘show diversity’ and that’s of course what we try and do because we want all of our publications to reflect the community that we serve….That’s only fair. People should see themselves reflected in city services because it’s everyone who uses them.”
20090610a.jpg

20090610b.jpg
The North York edition of the guide, at the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre. Photos by Ayngelina Brogan/Torontoist.


It’d be an embarrassing enough mistake to be caught forcibly editing a token Black guy into a photo that didn’t originally include him, all for the sake of “diversity” (and it’s amazing that it took this long to spot such an obvious photo manipulation), but what’s probably most embarrassing for a City whose motto is “Diversity Our Strength” is that there doesn’t seem to be, at least in this case, a clear sense of what the definition of “diversity” actually is—or, worse, that the definition extends mostly or only to visible ethnicity. According to the Post, “there are no criteria for what constitutes diversity, [Kevin Sack] acknowledged when asked how the policy is implemented in practice and why the family in the initial image didn’t seem to fit the bill.”
Diversity, though, just means difference, and difference doesn’t exist by itself: there has to be something to be different from, and you have to enunciate that difference to make it real. The new blacker dad does make the cover of the FUN Guide more diverse than the one with the original family on it would have been, but that’s only if you consider skin colour to be such an important and notable marker of difference that someone with darker skin must be sloppily edited into a photo of a lighter-skinned family to make it more accurately “depict the diversity of Toronto and its residents.” (The black man is otherwise the same as the lighter-skinned man: he looks to be about the same age, gender, and have roughly the same relationship with the other people in the photo as the original man did.) It’s one thing for a city to be mindful of and to embrace all of the differences between its citizens and to tailor its decisions and its actions with all of their best interests in mind; it’s another thing to force it.

Comments

  • http://undefined Amanda Happé

    I enjoy the fact that this hack attempt at representing “the diversity of Toronto and its residents” is achieved through purchased stock photography. Is a group of real Toronto residents that hard for the city to locate?

  • http://undefined tapesonthefloor

    Agreed.
    This is a result of careless and lazy reliance on stock imagery. Considering Toronto has more photographers online per capita than any city in the world (didn’t I read that somewhere?), how hard would it have been to highlight not only the “diversity” of our citizens, but the diversity of our visual artists as well?
    (Something, I should add, that Torontoist does flawlessly.)

  • http://undefined addict

    It’s not always laziness. It’s also budget cuts. Even if you found a family or group of random people who fit the “diversity” definition to pose for a picture for free, you have to pay to set up the shoot, pay the photographer, and pay those who prepare the waivers/paperwork. Not to mention the people who were paid to *find* willing participants. It’s more practical to buy a stock photo and Photoshop it.
    That being said though, there’s absolutely no excuse for the crap Photoshop edit job done with that photo.

  • Yorkvillian

    Wow, I passed by this issue at work every day. I always thought there was something tad askew about the cover.

  • http://undefined rek

    This is what’s know as a Photoshop Disaster,

  • http://undefined bigdaddyhame
  • http://undefined Vincent Clement

    Just another result of political correctness.

  • http://undefined saforrest

    Wow, this is an Onion article come to life almost perfectly:
    Black Guy Photoshopped In (December 6, 2000)

  • http://undefined dowlingm
  • http://undefined Dude27

    Unfortunately, it’s common in this job…. and more often it’s the “black/asian/arab” guy that we have to replace at the request of our big Canadian clients.

  • http://undefined Yo

    I really truly think that you watch dogs who want to make sure that there are adequate policies in place should be looking into the policies for Children’s Aid Society whose policies affect real human lives of innocent children on a daily basis.

  • http://www.bitpicture.com Marc Lostracco

    Policies like…? I’m not sure I follow.

  • http://undefined Yo

    Thank you for asking. The article states:
    “[T]he policy says ‘show diversity’ and that’s of course what we try and do because we want all of our publications to reflect the community that we serve”
    Then the article goes on to claim that the real issue at stake with the policy is that diversity is not defined properly.
    “but what’s probably most embarrassing for a City whose motto is “Diversity Our Strength” is that there doesn’t seem to be, at least in this case, a clear sense of what the definition of “diversity” actually is—or, worse, that the definition extends mostly or only to visible ethnicity. According to the Post, “there are no criteria for what constitutes diversity”
    What I am saying is that the lack of a proper definition for diversity in this policy is inconsequential when compared to the lack of a proper definition of ‘neglect’ or even the non-existence of a standard policy on how to respond to the neglect or abuse of a human child from one Children’s Aid Society to the next.
    As a society, we have to do a much better job of taking care of our children and if we didn’t waste our time worrying about how to represent the diverse face of the Toronto family, maybe we would have more time and money to devote to reducing child poverty, child abuse, and improving education.
    My point is that there are FAR more important issues to spend time writing and reading about in life than this diversity montage masquerading as worthy of news.

  • http://undefined Yo

    Hilarious link!

  • http://www.bitpicture.com Marc Lostracco

    I understand your point about the trouble in defining “diversity,” but not really what it has to do with the Children’s Aid, or why “worrying about how to represent the diverse face of the Toronto family” can’t co-exist with the Children’s Aid’s mandate to get kids out of bad situations and into better ones. The Children’s Aid and the City of Toronto are two separate entities.
    That being said, you should be pleased to know that I actually have a Children’s Aid article in progress—but a piece about a cruddy Photoshop job has as much a place on Torontoist as an article on Toronto’s family welfare issues.

  • http://undefined Yo

    You got me, I’m just a ‘cranky-pants’ today. I’m glad to hear that you have something less fluffy in the works.
    I’m sure you know that whenever a publication points a demeaning finger at another publication it reeks of news fabrication. You are absolutely correct that it is a ‘Toronto’ issue (literally!) and I’m not disputing that.
    But one might wonder if your real intention is to get attention for or from the publishers of the ‘Fun Guide’ and why.
    I’m looking forward to your article on child welfare. Perhaps it was the very image of a family with an imposed ‘foster?’ father that stirred up my reflections on the care of children.

  • http://undefined montauk

    mommy, why is daddy’s head so small and why does he never have a shadow

  • rapi

    i think the answer to:
    “what the definition of “diversity” actually is” is pretty clear in the picture: diversity is a mixed race family and it had to be the color of the skin as foreign accent doesn’t photograph as well!!
    same goes for hiring “visible minorities” and not “audible minorities”

  • http://undefined friend68

    Sure, there are always more important issues…. and the guy who gets a speeding ticket always tells the officer to go and fight “real crime.”
    But hey, these are your tax dollars at work, spending money and time and effort… since there clearly must be Diversity, even within a single family. What would they have done if the photo was of just one person?

  • http://undefined Scorbutic

    How is this is a big deal? (Other than demonstrating that the city hired a crappy Photoshop artist?) Unlike the example linked in the article, this isn’t a case where a lily-white institution can’t find a real photo of white and black people together so it has to fake one. It’s a stock photo. Blaming the city for a terrible Photoshop is one thing but this isn’t really a good example for this kind of criticism:
    [W]hat’s probably most embarrassing for a City whose motto is “Diversity Our Strength” is that there doesn’t seem to be, at least in this case, a clear sense of what the definition of “diversity” actually is—or, worse, that the definition extends mostly or only to visible ethnicity.
    Exactly how could non-visible examples of “diversity” be displayed in a picture? Should one of the kids be wearing a Pride shirt? While I agree that diversity extends beyond visible ethnicity, the photographic medium is a limiting factor.

  • http://undefined Scorbutic

    Just to add to my previous post: my real problem with this article is that it invites the kind of comments like #7 above, “Just another example of political correctness.” (Why do you think the National Post so gleefully covered it for instance?) Instead of prompting a debate about how Toronto can better define and reflect “diversity,” it gives another excuse for racists to creep out of the woodwork and complain that this is another example of how the white man is being oppressed. (Look at half of the National Post comments for instance.)
    That’s why comparing this to the University of Wisconsin incident is particularly unfortunate. The University had to Photoshop a black guy into its material because they didn’t have any pictures of white and black students together. They were trying to artificially insert ethnic diversity into a real picture in order to portray a fake image of their institution. Toronto took a fake picture and tried to make it reflect genuine ethnic diversity in our city. Please don’t give the “white pride” crowd (or even the “I’m not racist, but…” crowd) more ammunition by suggesting the two are equivalent.

  • http://undefined Coren Kollector

    What bothered me most was the City official who used the phrase “African-Canadian.” I so hoped that term wouldn’t catch on in Toronto. I get why it’s in use in the States, but the black community in Southern Ontario represents such a wide diaspora, that it’s almost insulting to label someone as “African”, when they can trace their more recent lineage to a place like St. Lucia, Jamaica or Cote D’Ivoire, among dozens of other locals.
    But then again, I’m a white guy, so the decision on terminology isn’t up to me (nor should it be).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Miguel-Martinelli/100001428484608 Miguel Martinelli

    Remember when Soviet rulers used to airbrush each other out of photographs, to make the historical record conform to the current political situation? The tradition has been kept alive in the West, where the moonbat establishment uses similar techniques to advance its social engineering projects.