Parents Unhappy About Where Their Son Was Placed in His Class Photograph


School portraits don’t often make the news for causing controversy, but that’s exactly what the class photo above has been doing over in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. Parents of the boy seen on the right side of the frame were unhappy after receiving the photo and finding that their son had been set apart from his classmates and teacher due to the fact that he uses a wheelchair.

The boy is 7-year-old Miles Ambridge, who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (a genetic muscle wasting disease) when he was 13 months old.

Miles’ mother Anne Belanger tells the Toronto Star that she was “heartbroken” when she saw the 2nd grade class photo:

I couldn’t comprehend how the photographer could look through the lens and think that this was good composition… this just boggled the mind. […] Being picked on and being set aside is horrendous and this was what was happening.

Miles Ambridge posing to the side of the bench his classmates are sitting on.

Miles Ambridge posing to the side of the bench his classmates are sitting on.

Miles’ father Don is now demanding that the school ask the photography company to reshoot the class photograph. The firm has since offered to remake the image, but so far the school has not responded to the media’s request for comment.

Anne Belanger believes the photographer simply wasn’t thinking when he posed the students and snapped the shot. “This was not a malicious act, I don’t think it was done on purpose. I just don’t think there was any rational thinking behind it,” she tells the Toronto Star.

The parents say they’ve decided not to show the photograph to Miles in order to not hurt his feelings.

Here’s the photographers’ takeaway from this story: when shooting a group photograph, make sure you pose your subjects in a fair and “rational” way.

(via Toronto Star via Reddit)

Update on 6/19/13: The photograph has been remade, and the parents are calling the new image “gorgeous”:


Miles is the boy in the striped shirt in the first row on the far right.

Image credit: Circle of Friends by Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha

  • Me

    It is exactly the same here in Canada. 82 krona an hour
    All you need is a pulse and the ability to lift heavy equipment, a car and a high tolerance for kids.

  • Sam

    Oh easy to say. But don’t you realise that the amount of photos handled by lifetouch would make photoshop a highly impractical solution. Then people at the printers make a little over minimum wage and would not have the skill needed.

  • Cynic

    Sympathy, attention and donations


    I just wanted to, Thank You for your service in the Army. And also having loved ones in a wheelchair also. I say KUDOS to you.
    Being a caregiver is the hardest job ever. And that is probably why the commenter, “Dave” is a little stressed.: )

  • Sam

    perhaps it is easy to be an armchair critic.
    it is obvious that Miles was brought into the shot after the class had already been set up.

  • cynic

    oh they know exactly how the internet works.
    I saw someone offering to start a donation pool for Miles.

  • Someone

    no, someone who earns a great deal less than the school custodian.

    In BC

    Custodian Min: $17.61 – Max: $24.74Avg: $20.73

    LifetouchPhotographer Min:$13.00 – Max $17.00

  • Genkakuzai

    Mhm figured that was the case…

  • Genkakuzai

    I doubt anyone will start thinking all photographers are awful due to this mishap.

  • virgilstarkwell

    i like how the kid still looks so happy – like he couldn’t care less where he’s positioned as long as he’s with his pals.

  • lidocaineus

    And your point is? Belanger said it was probably done without malice, so you guys are in agreement. She would just like to see it rectified.

  • Stacy Walsh Rosenstock

    “I couldn’t comprehend how the photographer could look through the lens and think that this was good composition” School photography isn’t about composition. It’s about lining up a class of kids, getting a shot where they’re all looking towards the camera, and then moving onto the next class. If the parents don’t like the photo then don’t buy the photo. Maybe next year they should discuss this with the school about how to include disabled kids in photos. If the mom thinks this photo might hurt her son’s feelings just imagine how the entire class is going to react towards him when they have to sit for a reshoot because she wasn’t satisfied.

  • David Shoots Film

    He’s not as close as possible. The children on the left could have sat at the edge of the risers rather than being pushed toward the center. Then put the teacher on that side of the risers, and the kid in question would be right next to everyone. There is no reason for those kids to sit so close together. As you can see, at least the front bench is much wider than needed. It looks like they composed the shot, then the kid in the wheelchair came in.
    Why is it a high horse to want a kid to feel like he’s part of a group? We take these photos so the kids will be able to look back and remember their friends and teachers. I see nothing wrong with pointing out that this kid’s remembrance might be spoiled by a poorly-posed photograph.

  • photoperson

    Photoshop will do the trick

  • itissad

    I agree it isn’t right. Maybe consider cropping him out to clear up the shot a bit.

  • Gord

    What? No it isn’t. It’s a very clear answer that directs you right to what you need to know.

    Someone else (I assume a Canadian) has already pointed out that you cannot publish minor photos without parental permission. This story is about a kid in a wheelchair, not what his classmates look like. He was published by his parents and the rest of his class were not.

    Even if it weren’t illegal to publish minors without their consent, what possible insight could the faces of his classmates give about a kid in a wheelchair photographed away from his classmates?

    What questions are unanswered here? What are you not getting?

  • levitor

    He still smiled like the happy child he is. Touching article.
    As Photographer and parent of a 3 year old, I would have done everything I could to make them all look equal.

  • Theresa Z

    How can the photographer not notice that, did he shoot with his eyes closed? Very unprofessional, imho. Peace.

  • Rob Spence



    ROTFL! Rob, I just sprayed coffee out of my nose. And you know what?
    Coffee hurts when it comes out of your nose!

  • JD

    That boy in the wheelchair looks very happy to me! Look at that bright wide smile. Why do adults tend to think from the negative point of view? That boy might be thinking: “IT’S AWESOME, I CAN POSE WITH MY COOL WHEELS, WHILE MY FRIENDS CAN NOT POSE ON THEIR BIKES!”. So, for those ‘so-called-defenders’ ask this to yourself: how many times had you witnessed an unfair treatment/discrimination and you pretended that you didn’t see?

  • JD

    Awesome job Rob! We need to have more humour like this.

  • Cynic

    Then why does the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many?

  • squibbydo

    Momma needs a thicker skin if she’s going to deal with the challenges of raising him. She’ll be doing him a great disservice if she whines about everything. The only thing I see that could be done differently here is that maybe the teacher (since she also is not in the stands) could be on his side instead of the opposite side.

  • murtwitnessone

    This was a rather tough one for the photographer. The front riser was clearly too wide for the kids to be lined up in a manner that would have allowed the wheelchair to be lined up properly in the shot. It is unfortunate that there could not have been a rearrangement to bring the child in the wheelchair into the shot, Perhaps a different bleacher would have solved the problem or putting to more kids in the front row might have gone a long ways to solving this problem.

  • Siani Warner

    This photo has broken my heart :(

  • Smithy

    Anne Belanger believes the photographer simply wasn’t thinking when he
    posed the students and snapped the shot. “This was not a malicious act, I
    don’t think it was done on purpose. I just don’t think there was any
    rational thinking behind it,”

    What a load of crap, one of the main things aphotographer looks at is image composition, getting everything looking balanced. Some photographer!

  • laura

    I agree with you!!!!

  • John Kantor

    And then you get sued by the same parents when the kid falls off the bench.

  • levitor

    What needs, dude?
    Look at what we’re talking about here.

  • gudspeler

    Dude really, typos givin you the problem in you life? Well I guess that your catchin typos in a photo blog helps us all to value your cred as a photog.

  • Kaybee

    Awww… Miles looks so happy to be in the photo with that gorgeous smile in the corner. As a parent, I would be heart broken too. Many special need children’s parents are as it is very apprehensive about their child’s acceptance so I can understand their feelings.
    As a Photographer, I would have surely made them all sit on a chair around Miles or made them sit on the edge of the bench where they are sitting and made the teacher stand behind/ besides Miles.