The Emile Cohl Art School in Lyon, France has issued a public apology after it was discovered that they photoshopped images of Black students into a promotional image used to advertise the school in the United States.
The manipulation of the photo also included the darkening of other student's faces already in the photo to give the impression of "diversity." It is believed this was done to lift the profile of the French Art School in the United States.
Kelsi Phung, a former student at Emile Cohl from 2011 to 2012, told CNN: "The photo was originally shared in a French animation studio by a (current) student of the school and then broadcast on a Facebook group. ... Desiring to preserve (the student's anonymity, I am responsible for broadcasting the photomontage.)"
When compared side-by-side, the manipulated version shows that two Black people were added to the group of students, and the facial features of others were darkened.
"The communication company decided on its own to darken the skin of some students to add diversity," Emmanuel Perrier, assistant director of the school said. "The communication campaign was made in the United States."
The campaign was developed as part of Emile Cohl's four-year plan to open a branch in Los Angeles, California. While the school apologized for its actions, it laid blame on the U.S.-based company it hired to develop the promotional campaign.
Perrier has refused to name the communication company hired to develop the campaign. He did point out, however, that the contract with the communication company "is over. American law is complex, but we don't want it to stop there — we would like to file a complaint."
Perrier went on to note that the original picture shows students participating in "a six-month internship at the moment. ... When the website was made public, we didn't notice anything, the students from our school were the first ones to notice it."
To diversify or not to diversify, Emile Cohl's original promotion image didn't show any internship students likely to identify as a Black person.