Photographer of controversial photo says people are rushing to judgment

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BARABOO (WKOW) — Photographer Pete Gust of Baraboo says people are rushing to judgment after a photo went viral depicting a group of high school students with their arms extending in what some are saying is a Nazi salute.

“I knew that it was a wave. It never crossed my mine that it was anything other than waving goodbye to their parents,” Gust said.

He said he was with his son at the Sauk County Courthouse as the group gathered for a picture before heading to the prom. That’s when someone asked him to take a picture of the group.

“Because I had my camera and my tripod all set up. Can you take a picture? Yeah, I can take a picture of you guys,” Gust said.

Gust says he told the group to wave their hands over their heads.

“But I never thought, never in my wildest imagination, that I’d think that anybody would do something like this. And they’ve been up there since May. And now sometimes in November, six months later, they decide that there was something wrong.

Student Jordan Blue saw it differently.

“Some represented in the photos that aren’t meaning to do it. They weren’t really sure what was going on. But then there’s some that have intent. In their hands, you can see the amount of tension in their arms,” Blue said.

Gust isn’t sure who posted the image on social media.

“When I get back, I’ll get them up on the web and you guys can look at them.” he said.

But he does understands how the gesture could be misinterpreted.

“Looking back at in hindsight after all of this fury, heck yeah. Had I looked at it with that eye, I wouldn’t have put it up,” Gust said.

Gust says he’s received backlash and support from the community in the aftermath of the controversy.

“It has upset my wife. It’s upset my son, who’s in the picture.”

He says it’s frustrating the photo is causing this kind of fury for the students as well as the community.

David Johnson

David Johnson

Reporter, WKOW

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