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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Comments

I'm not sure, but I suspect the photographer did screw up, yes.

You know, the kid's not glued to the wheelchair. Perhaps he could've been moved to the risers for the photo. Or why not pose some kids standing around him?

"What do you think—did this photographer screw up?"

Yes. Its obvious that the photographer didn't want to deal with rearranging the risers to make the boy in the wheelchair appear to be just one of the gang. Perhaps there was a conga line of more noisy, fidgety classes waiting to be shot that day.

But, yes, it's the photographer's fault for creating such a terrible memento.

Including the risers is the problem with this photo. Maybe the photographer could've grouped all the kids more successfully without them.

About the only thing I could think of would be to take the kid out of the wheelchair and sit him in the center of the bottom row. Depends on whether he could sit up on the bench tho. Second row might be better tho if his legs are abnormal.

Mike - he could have elected not to use the risers at all and found a more creative solution to the problem. It wouldn't have been that difficult.

I think your suggestion of the teacher filling the gap works perfectly. Then there would be no visual "body" gap and bare wall behind, which makes Miles appear much more a part of the group. Obviously you can't tell from the photo if he has to be in the wheel chair; seems to me he could have been temporarily placed in front row with the teacher "propping" him up and leave the wheel chair out of it.

It's a harrowing assignment and easy to assign blame, but had the guy been a bit more sensitive, the photographer could easily have saved everyone a lotta grief by doing exactly as you suggested- placed the teacher between the main body of the class and the other student.

People who lack empathy and creativity shouldn't do portrait photography for a living.

I would try having the wheelchair in front of the stand with the 1st row standing with the wheelchair and then have the other rows standing, maybe on the seats instead of the footrest.

-Hudson

Well somewhat related apropos your interest in pool. Just like shooting school pictures, sometimes you do what you've got to do, and the last in my series of shooting books called "Knack - Make it Easy " by Globe Pequot Press, I shot a book on pool.

Man, what an interesting game! The author, and subject of most of my photos, was Bruce Barthelette, who is one of the world's best trick shot artists. Through him, I got to meet a number of the other incredible trick shot artists including Andy Segal and Mike Massey. Anyways, I found myself photographing the world championships of trick shoots at the Mohegan Sun. Go figure.

I'm with you on pool man, as I know my next house will have one room big enough for a table.

And I'm sure some people don't think shooting class photos is "the kind of thing that makes you question your life choices." In fact, I just shot the class photo for the college that I work at...I have to say corralling 1,000 college grads in a roped area with a big megaphone who will do whatever you say is pretty darn fun!

Mike, first of all thanks for another interesting post. I'll skip commenting on the photographer in question, but I do have an observation about those "wretched assignments". As a photographer, shooting class portraits does seem a bit.... tedious. Bur as the parent of a three year old who just brought home his first school portrait, I never thought I could find so much meaning in "cheesy" photography. I decided to have my son's picture taken for the same of tradition, expecting it to be awful. It's not exactly Avedon material, but boy did this photographer capture the spirit of my son. (Even if it looks like 1988.) I've found an unexpected appreciation for this type of photo. This work may go unappreciated or taken for granted, but the few people this type of photograph resonates with really treasure them. Old men have tattered photos of their long grown sons still clinging to their desk at work, or stuck to their workbench in the garage. That's an achievement.

One more thing, for Mike.

It's great to see my co-worker Becky in your photos, as we're all breathing a little sigh of relief in this period after the students have left and the campus has calmed down. Alas, I am still here.

Small world.

[Ah, that's right, you're "that" Eli! Becky speaks very highly of you. --Mike]

Mike

Here in the UK our children's school photographer shoots the kids in what they refer to as "friendship groups" - small groups (3-6 children) against a white background. They then paste - presumably in photoshop the groups into a strip. So it looks like an informal version of the picture generated by the rotating lens camera you mention in your post.
I suspect this gives the photographer lots of advantages:
Less children to deal with at any one time and easier to get them to focus
You have more posing options
You can fit a few props in.
One of our daughters class mates uses a wheelchair and prompted by your post I checked out some previous years photographs. He has generally been posed sitting out of his chair with other sitting class mates, though of course the young boy's condition may have prevented him easily leaving his chair.
We don't know how the young boy feels about the picture but I suspect the photo represented many of his mothers past battles to get him included in society and her fears for the future and to be honest if it was me I'd have pretty mad too.

Gavin

As is, the student is definitely cast as "the other" and Mom has a right to be upset.

This seems to be a case of lack of creativity. Ether by the photographer or imposed on him/her by the school or the photo outfit. You could have placed the wheelchair in front of the risers, get the first row to sit on the floor in front of the wheelchair, get the second row to stand on either side of the kid in the chair and finally have the third row now stand on the first row of risers. You also have had the kids "left-align" (from the point of view of the viewer) so that the first and second row reached closest to the wheelchair and have the teache stand behind or on the far side of the chair.

I have not encountered this particular situation. I have encountered similar situations where an older person who was wheelchair bound, or unable to stand with a group was one of the people needing to be in a group picture. What I have done in the past is to put the wheelchair in the center of the photo and then group everyone around that person. That would have been possible here. I might have possibly also placed the teacher in the center behind the wheelchair bound child. Some children would be on floor level - perhaps even kneeling on one knee to get them at a level close to that of the wheelchair bound child. You would still use the riser to adjust for height of the people in the back rows. My composition would have likely turned out to be a heart shape. I would shoot it vertically and horizontally so that it could be fit into whatever the layout dictated.

There is no way to minimize the chair (unless you place children kneeling or sitting in front of it...). It is what it is and you just have to work around it and try to be as sensitive as possible to the situation.

"Speedy"

I'm quite certain of two things:
1. The photographer was/is a bit lazy and might have been in a rush.
2. The photographer had no intention of distancing the boy. It was a mistake.

Mistakes should be corrected but we need to recognize them for they are. Lesson learned. But no reason to organize a march and a burning at the stake.

Why does this remind me of something?

I suspect the kids could have been towards the end of the bench instead of leaving such a big gap, but I wasn't there so I don't know.

I also suspect that the mother would object to your use of the term "wheelchair bound." From Wikipedia:

List of disability-related terms with negative connotations

"Wheelchair-bound" for someone who uses a wheelchair is unacceptable because of the word "bound" being used in it, which implies that the user is hindered in their use of a wheelchair. "Wheelchair user" or "person who uses a wheelchair" is preferred, referring to the wheelchair as a tool rather than an entrapment.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_disability-related_terms_with_negative_connotations#W

*If the linked news article has the facts right:

The way that the company responsible for the photo handled it was disgraceful. It took complaints from the student's parents and school administration for them to grudgingly agree to retake the shot. Managing the exceptions as well as the norm is key to providing excellent customer service in any business. It doesn't seem like they aspire to that standard.

I don't know what I would've done to take the photo, but I certainly would make every effort to do right by that child and his family. It's called empathy.

Hi Mike,
This is an easy one. Scoot the group of kids over to the end of the bleachers so the wheelchair can be right next to the kids, plop the teacher on the other side to fill the space, and find a specific wheelchair position/camera angle combination that minimizes wheelchair exposure. Or find a hill and have them stand around the wheel chair. I'm no psychologist (wink), but I suspect the photographer and the group may have had some resistance to using their full problem-solving capacities. Sink one for me, S

I think one possible solution would have been to move the kid in the wheelchair into about the third position in the front row. Then stand the front row up and see if it is possible to arrange them so nobody's face is obscured.
I'm glad I don't do this kind of photography but as working stiff local news guy I do get my fair share of ribbon cuttings, ground breakings and grip and grins. In light of this thread they are actually looking kind of good right now.

My first instinct would have been to have the kids sit toward the end of the bleachers, closer to the wheelchair. But that probably wouldn't have worked, because it looks like they're all sliding off the other side.
Seriously, though, I think the photographer compounded the problem by not only being off center (resulting in those sloping horizontals) but by being off center on the far side of the poor kid in the wheelchair. It's as if even the photographer didn't want to be close to him !

Mike, this is a perfect situation for moving the child over next to the others using Photoshop's "Content Aware Scale." I downloaded a copy of the image, opened it in Photoshop CS6, and it took me about 15 seconds to move the young man to the left while eliminating the bleacher board. The Photoshop algorithm matched the background and foreground nicely.

I can understand the photgrapher not anticipating the parents' reaction when making the image. But it seems to me the photographer, upon seeing the child out in right field, so to speak, would have utilized digital technology to move him and therefore make the image appear to be inclusive of all.

I agree with the mother. Class could have been shifted to (our) right, and students in back could have been shifted as well, to move the center to the right. Teacher repositioned as well, as you say.

I wonder if the photographer has ever taken any photos with a kid in a wheelchair, or if this is his or her first one. If the first one, then lesson learned, I hope.

The picture looks absolutely horrible to me.

They could have brought kid sized chairs in for the front row to use. Then the boy could have been seated amongst them.

I wouldn't have put the teacher in the gap. I would have spread the kids out a little more or moved one or two kids from the back to the first two rows. The wheelchair appears to be right against the risers, so having one more kid in each of the first two rows next the the kid in the wheelchair seems like it would have fixed much of the problem. Having the wheelchair moved forward a little so that the kid's head and body were lined up with the heads and bodies of the kids in the front row seems it would have fixed the rest. It's also easier to talk about this in hindsight.

Well...it wasn't the photographer's finest hour for sure. With the benefit of hindsight it's obvious to everybody that Miles doesn't look like a part of the group. It's not hard to see how the mistake could have been made, but you do wonder how it got as far as being sent out to parents.

However, "ostracized" suggests intent which I think is going too far. He looks separate, which is a shame, but he also looks very happy, so I don't get the feeling that he is being excluded deliberately. She probably did the right thing complaining though - photographers that have never encountered this particular banana-skin will at least be better prepared for it!

Yes, the photographer definitely screwed up. The idea of taking a class photo is to depict the class as a group. In this photo, the class minus one is a group - and one is not part of the group.
Simply a job not done properly.
I totally understand the mothers feelings. Personally I would be carefull though, not to make a lot of general conclusions about discrimination etc. from just one bad picture. But then again, the blame is basically on the photographer.

Couldn't the kid in the wheelchair sit on the risers with everyone else? He is able to sit up in his wheelchair, he could probably, just as easily, sat on a riser with the rest of the kids. The photographer could have lifted him out of his chair and placed him next to his classmates.

[Seriously? I would *never* do that on my own recognizance, in fact not even if instructed to by my boss. I don't have the medical expertise to know what's best for a person in a wheelchair. --Mike]

I think the picture illustrates very well how extremely poor society treats disabled people. I sympathise fully with the mother and find the treatment of her kid, not evil, but at best distasteful and careless. If the picture was taken by a pro he/she did a poor job. If you make a living taking group pictures you should have thought about solving a minor problem like this well in advance. It is a fairly good chance that this isn't the first and last disabled person you will encounter as a pro photographer. Just as sports people identify better with sports they have played themselves, I guess only parents of disabled people can identify with the everyday hurt of having your child treated as a "problem" in all areas of life.

That is terrible. Probably shot by a male, right-brained, perfectionistic, gear oriented photographer that didn't have the sensitivity to understand that little guy is trying so hard to lean in to be part of the class. The photographer should have simply broken convention and arranged the children around the wheel chair. This breaks my heart.

This photographer probably thought his job was to make photographs, rather than cherished memories.

I bet that kid threw out that picture.

Moving the teacher to the gap is such an obvious solution, we have to judge the photographer as at least inattentive or worst ( sky's the limit).

The following is meta..
Also I'm kinda surprized you dissed the mom without knowing her at all unless you're privy to facts you're not sharin.

Maybe he should be sitting on someone's lap? I think mom needs to chill out. Kid looks happy enough.

The teacher and the photographer screwed this one up big time. The teacher could at the very least stood to the outside of the child's chair and the photographer could have moved the class closer and had some of the standing classmates stand behind him. Not a lot of thought given here IMO and a sensitivity lesson for those in the business

Dear Mike,

First point-- there are good solutions to this problem, in fact the linked article describes the one they used:

"The photo was retaken earlier this week by another Lifetouch photographer. In the new photo, which his parents have not yet seen, Miles was taken out of his wheelchair and supported by a caregiver on a bench beside his classmates.
...
Dean Cochrane, manager for the Lifetouch office in Burnaby, said the company teaches its photographers to build the composition of photos differently when they work with people in wheelchairs."

Second point -- there are MANY better solutions than this photo. Have all the kids skoodge left by 2 feet so that Miles is at the edge of the group and not separated from it. Have the teacher stand to the left of the group (and Miles) instead of to the right of it. Have the kids who are standing on the back set of bleachers instead stand next to and around Miles. And, again, move the teacher to the left. And I could think of three or four more if I wanted to put more than 30 seconds effort into this.

Third point–– your rejected solution of putting the wheelchair in front is still a BETTER solution. “Spotlighting the wheelchair-bound kid” is NOT anywhere as big a problem as excluding him. You think he doesn't get spotlighted every day? Do you think he doesn't know he gets spotlighted every day? It happens every time he has to navigate up a ramp or get through a school door that is just wide enough for his wheelchair but still requires careful maneuvering, or goes to a classroom or an assembly where he has to be positioned carefully off to the side because there sure as hell's no way to fit him amidst normally spaced rows of desks or chairs.

And here's the general thing about folks who are chair-bound. They get ignored, they get excluded, they get ostracized every single day of their lives. They do not get treated as normal folk by most people. Oh, yes, sometimes they do get singled out as freaks, but far, far more often they are simply treated as part of the furniture. They are politely but pointedly NOT paid any attention to. Not any at all. They do not get talked to, their opinions are not solicited, they are not included in the conversation or the activities. They are at best a spectator. They are not merely made into “others," they are made into non-people.

I could go on at great, great, GREAT length about this with more specific examples than you could stand to read, but I'm going to leave it at that (unless someone really wants to argue this point with me, in which case take it to me privately).

Fourth point–– the mother is NOT “probably just as bad as the problem itself”. In fact, she's not a problem at all. She's the solution. Bravo for her. She did exactly the right thing. Nobody should dare suggest otherwise.


pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
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-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
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I gasped when I saw this photo. The photographer absolutely screwed up, and so did the teacher. They needed to find a way to integrate Miles visually into the class picture, even if that meant significantly changing the arrangement of the entire group. The photographer's failure to do that showed a combination of insensitivity, lack of creativity, and laziness. Rather than working on it, it looks like s/he posed the class as s/he did every other class and just stuck the wheelchair-bound kid on the end. Disgraceful!

The photographer could have shifted two kids (one in each row) from the teacher's side to the kid in the wheelchair's side.

No brainer; everyone moves ~2 ft to their left. There are two benches: the first row is sitting on the front one, the second is standing between them, and the third is standing on the back bench. No reason they had to be centred on the benches.

If this is the worst problem the kid faces, he is one lucky boy. Supposedly he is being treated well by the school and likes it there. It's unfortunate the class picture was being taken on bleachers and had no good place for his wheelchair, but I really doubt the kid will look at this picture and feel shame. Those are his friends. And he's in the picture with them.

I like the photo this way: the kid gets his revenge on the rest of the class.

Interesting story. Part of my teaching job is taking photographs in school and class shots form part of that for yearbooks for me, too. I have this very issue to contend with in three years time! However, I use a row of chairs for the front row rather than a bench so I will be able to get the wheelchair bound student into the middle of the group easily when I come to take the shot.

Your suggestions about how to work around the problem look like the sensible choice in this situation.

I have more problem with the fact that the photographer hasn't managed to get any faces sharp - with the exception of the teacher and the disabled child. What kind of message is being sent here about 'safeguarding' children when one is not blurred? Disabled kids don't count when child protection is thought about? Sorry, such things irritate me.

Why not have the kids in the front row sit a couple of inches apart? They would fill up the front row and there would be no gap...

I can see the mother's point - that gap between the wheel chair and the first child just leaps out at me - I think just moving the kids so they were alongside the wheel chair would have solved the problem. To me the picture says 'this teacher likes all these kids except the one on the right'

Colin

I think it is a big enough deal to complain about. They could have slid across and then have the teacher cover the blank seats by standing in front. This is the worst solution.

Yes, the photographer screwed up.

From the photo, it's clear that the kids on the second row are all standing. Maybe move one of them from the (camera) left end to the right, and move one sitting kid from left to right. Then, if the kids at the back can't be shifted any more, have the teacher stand on the other side at the back in the gap.

Even if there would have been some issue with that solution, I'm sure that something else would have been workable.

Not to be dismissive of the mother - I'm sure she is extremely protective of her boy as she should be but the phrase "first world problems" comes to mind. We should all be grateful such minor issues in the grand scheme of things are what we are debating.

Not difficult.

Put the kid in the damn center and let the kids group around him. Who cares if the kid is the center of attention? He's got a tough row.

This picture caused my Wife to absolutely cry her eyes out.

LOOK at what's going on inside the edges.

Would you want to sit close to a load of weird kids with no faces?

I agree that the photographer probably acted unintentionally, but the resulting marginalization of the boy in the chair is stark. And, to those of us who use wheelchairs all the time, it reminds us that all too often people with disabilities are marginalized, intentionally or not, in all kinds of situations. The boy uses a power chair; it’s part of who he is. He should not have been lifted on to the bench to sit with other kids, thus hiding or disguising his disability, which is nothing to be ashamed of. The Americans with Disabilities Act, 23 years old next month, has been changing the face of America, but old negative stereotypes about disability and people with disabilities die hard. The good news is that this boy is in school; not so many years ago he would probably have been put in some institution.
And BTW Mike, the term “wheelchair-bound” is anathema in disability circles; even the AP Stylebook bans it. Somewhere I have a photo taken years ago of a woman being arrested during a protest against inaccessible public buses. She is being bound into her chair with big straps by a policeman. She definitely was “wheelchair-bound”. Most users are liberated by their wheelchairs, freed to move independently around their environment, even live independently. Present company included.

The mother is making too big a deal out of it. What's Photoshop for? :)

At the school our kids go yo they no longer do group shots, just individual portraits. These are then put into a collage long with the school principal. That beats having to get 15-20 kids smiling in unison.

I see it as very honest mistake by the photographer who was, perhaps working under a tight schedule and under difficult conditions (trying to get kids to sit up and look at the camera!). I believe the mother is making far more of this than there really is. But, that's how it is with parents; they see one child, teachers (and the photographer) see them all.

A great many years ago I did high volume family group portrait work. Posing was more important than the technical issues of making the photographs and knowing the emotional implications of posing was part of the job. This example suggests the photographer wasn't very experienced, was too harried to care, or was having an off day. As others mentioned, posing some of the subjects standing or kneeling to close the separation and include the boy in the chair was the obvious way to solve the problem.

The obvious after the fact solution is to Photoshop the boy into the main group. It's a simple fix that shouldn't take more than a few minutes. Problem solved and no hurt feelings. In the old days such a cut and paste would have been difficult and expensive. Now it's a piece of cake. Happy customers buy more pictures.

Their are tons of things the photographer could have done however they now have immense restrictions put on them for digital school photos. You set up your lights on a grey card system to get it to fall into a perfect parameter and then you do not move anything, lights, camera angle, or else an adjustment needs to be made. I was made to use this system on one of my more creative dance schools this year and I can tell you it wasn't long before it went out the window, but a small cog working for a big machine does not have that option. The company still needs to take responsibility for not training the photographer properly for these situations so they know what they are allowed to do and what they cant do.

I can weigh in here, I think. I've earned a significant income from photography, still do, and currently work a 9-5 gig supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and brain injuries. In fact, barring a couple of short-lived part-time jobs, these two things are all I've ever done. I've even shot the occasional class photo and I know I wouldn't want to do that again...for-get-it.
The people at fault here, (all of this IMO,) are the adults - all of them. The teacher should have exercised some sensitivity. She's probably seen a class photo or two and would recognize that one student isn't "with" the class. The photographer should have seen it, plain and simple - but also, there may have been an agency hired to send them as a contractor and they should have prepared him (or her) better for this eventuality. The school would know about the kid and should have seen to it that he was treated fairly (but that was probably left up to the teacher.) Lastly, the mom parading it about the web and making a bigger deal of it than it is screams "vengeance," not "inclusion," which is all the kid wants, I'd bet.
OK, so yes, if the kid could be naturally supported to sit on the bleachers on his own butt he should have been, maybe with one of his friends on either side for support. There are ways but I don't know what the kid's circumstances are. If he couldn't leave the chair, the teacher and photographer should have taken the time to arrange the front row so that the other kids weren't on the bleachers but in regular chairs so that they would be roughly the same height. There would be height issues for the kids behind, of course, but they could have gotten it done if they had taken the time. The teacher's placement could have helped but no matter what she should be at the edge of the frame, not the kid.

I think putting the teacher in between would have been just as bad, to show how this kid is different and separate from the rest. All the students should have been moved to the right (their left) to be closer and right next to the wheel chair. There looks to be space for that. The empty raisers should be on the left side. Teacher could then stand on the right side of the picture, next to the wheelchair bound student.
I think assignments like this show the true professional skill of photographer, instead of just mechanically following a preset plan.

The picture looks just fine to me. Seemed to be a natural type class-picture setting. Frankly, I did not even notice the oddness of the wheelchair being a bit away from the group until I began reading your post. It was just a class picture and one of the kids was in a wheelchair, no big deal. I would, however, be bound to honor the wishes of the kid's mother, if possible, since he is her kid.

cfw

I think the photographer made a poor choice in the 'heat' of shooting a difficult pose, but that can be easily "fixed" in Photoshop for a final publishing by selecting the boy in the wheelchair, and moving him much closer to the rest of the group... easy peasy!
I just did it and it makes a world of difference having him closer to the rest!

The comments suggesting taking the child out of his wheelchair would likely have resulted in an even worse situation. Look no further than the history of protests related to the FDR memorial for an example of why.

It was a pretty lousy photo and it DOES draw attention to the separation.

I can think of a number of ways around the issue, the easiest being to line the kids up at the end of the bench (no gap) and sit the teacher at the other end to balance it. I'm sure there are others, but this would not require any extra props or take longer.

And it IS worth thinking about how to deal with challenges like this because (a) if you're being paid to it's part of being professional and (b) whether something is done inadvertently or not, disabled people are constantly having to deal with ignorance and inattention, even if no malice is intended.

But this was woefully unprofessional (at best). As to the mother, what good mothers are NOT fiercely protective about their kids? It's in the job description.

Just looks fine to me. He looks happier than the blobs.

If you had to fix it, I suppose I'd have had them shift over to the very end of the bench so the gap was less apparent.

Dave

I was calling this lazy, too, but then I looked more closely at the platform the kids are on... It's actually the most balanced and safe shot, literally. If they were moved closer to the left or right side of the platform as a group, the whole thing could tip over, catapulting kids, because it's very center balanced. Centering the kids was a safety concern. There's no good way to use that bench for all these kids and get the wheelchair closer to the group without compromising kid safety on the platform. The only better solution starts with getting rid of the platform and setting up elsewhere, which would have annoyed the other class groups waiting. Classic damned if you do, damned if you don't photography -- thankless work that's never as easy as it seems.

If I were the mother and he were my boy, this image would’ve upset me, too. For many folks, especially those of limited means, a group photo such as this may be one of the few keepsake images they will have to remember their child at this age.

It’s an insensitive composition, clumsily articulated. Posing the teacher on the other side to bridge the excess riser length between the other children and the boy might’ve helped from a balance standpoint, but he still would have remained separated from his peers, his mates.

Mainstreaming kids needs to be a righteous and sincere effort, doesn’t it? This photograph reinforces his difference, rather than his similarity, as a class member.

In reading the original article, the reporter notes that the studio does in fact train its staff to be more creative when encountering such occurrences. Here, the school surely must shoulder some responsibility as well, for its staff would’ve needed to let the studio staff know, give the photographer a heads up. After all, it’s not like the kid rolled in that day with his w/chair, unannounced.

Some commenters here at TOP have wondered whether the risers were necessary, which seems like reasonable conjecture. This is a small class. Seems like something else could have been devised. Many here have offered different configurations, several of which would’ve been better at capturing a group shot inclusive of everyone.

The whole affair reflects a serious poverty of imagination. While perhaps it was just another day at the office for the fellow behind the camera, I bet it wasn’t for the class in front of it. Class picture day. It was a big deal, as I recall.

For what it’s worth, a family member of mine spends a great deal of time in a w/chair, so I have more than a passing acquaintance with this type of situation.

For me, rather than ostracized, this portrait shows a boy “marginalized” by his society, his school, and thus diminished by his isolation.

Marginalia. Poor kid. He’s such a little doll. Look at his posture; look at how much he yearned to be a part of the group.

Inclusion. Is that really too much to ask?

While i agree that nobody intentionally set out to do anything unkind, personally i agree with the mother. What I don't understand about the situation is why this wasn't thought through by the school leadership. The day that class photos are taken is announced in a school far in advance. As a teacher familiar both with the special needs of this child and the general procedures around class photos I would have brought this up to my administrators and as an administrator I would have greeted the photographer first thing in the morning and mentioned that in one of our classes we have a lad in a wheelchair and would this cause any problems. It's likely that the photographer would have had some ideas and would have been prepared. My guess is that next year this is exactly what will happen.

Bad focus on the kids' faces!

I can understand that the mother is upset at the photo, but I think she took the wrong route by going public with her complaint. Kids are very understanding and accommodating, much more so than adults, and simply telling the kid that they couldn't get the wheelchair closer, and didn't think of moving the other kids closer until it was too late, would probably have sufficed. Now the kid is at the centre of a controversy which he no doubt has no interest in, and if this gets to the attention of the other kids in that class, the gulf between them and the boy will probably be greater than ever. The mother should have anticipated the problem, and been there to help set it up right, quite simply. Failing that, she could have asked the photographer to photoshop the boy closer.

Great post!

In my experience, people on the edge of group shots tend to lean in, regardless of the set-up. I just make a fun of it and tell them to be tall.

I agreed Ctein totally and come up with exactly 3 same points (and he got 4).

Id stand the first row of kids in front of the bench with Miles in the middle, and tehs econd row standing on the bench. But you can't think of any ill intentiins here, unless you're kinda mean yourself. Poor photography sensibilities, yes. But polotocal correctness has gone way too far.

Definitely a mistake. If I was the photographer realizing what unintentional distress I caused, I would volunteer to retake the photo. As a matter of fact, if I lived in the town, I would volunteer to retake the photo even if I hadn't shot the original. And I think many of my colleagues would feel the same. This is not your typical disgruntled client, who felt like the background made them look fat, but a legitimate concern.

Dear Mike,

First I appreciate the change in language, as a person who uses a wheelchair, it is aggravating to have the vehicle that provides me so much freedom referred to as something confining. I won't go into picture composition I'm not a photographer, but I do have a few things to point out.

You are just wrong when you say, "the mother's making a big deal out of this is probably just as bad as the problem". The mother had an honest reaction to the picture. Why shouldn't she complain? Whether the picture was the result of an honest mistake or laziness or whatever, I don't think anyone is suggesting the picture is a good one. Are you suggesting the mother should have remained quiet so as not to inconvenience the photographer or the company providing the service?

You suggest that the kid in the wheelchair can't be placed in front of the risers because that would spotlight the kid. It seems to me that the kid is spotlighted in the original picture separated as he is from everyone else.

A couple of your commenters seem to think that the goal should be to minimize the appearance of the wheelchair. The kid in the wheelchair (or the wheelchair itself) is not the problem. The kid knows he's in a wheelchair. His mother knows he's in a wheelchair. No one wants to pretend he somehow not using a wheelchair, but he is a student in the class and the picture should look like he is a member of the class not someone grudgingly added to the picture.

Although the solution in this case was apparently to get the kid out of his wheelchair onto a riser, I don't think that is a good solution very often. Wheelchairs these days include seating arrangements that provide support to the wheelchair user. It is often very uncomfortable or even impossible for a wheelchair user to sit in any old seat.

Ostracised is a too strong word, but I guessed the mother used the word to push for a retake. The photographer is not trained enough. The photo is badly balanced and to much empty space.

I dont think the boy will feel lonines because of the photo, not today nor tomorrow, he is showing to much positive aura. But he will in the future comment how difficult un prepared and innocent
the enivronment was to handle the situation with him in the wheelchair.

I have taken photos of similar classes. There has always been warmth and sympathy in the classes and have tried to capture the feeling of friendship.

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