Photographer Behind Picture of Teens Giving Nazi Salute Says He Just Told Them to Wave

Pete Gust emphatically defended the photo, saying: "I didn't tell them to salute or anything."

The photographer who captured an image of Wisconsin high school students appearing to give a Nazi salute is insisting he didn't direct them to do so. 

The shocking photo, which was taken in the spring before junior prom, only recently began making the rounds online. In the picture, almost all of the 63 boys from Baraboo High School appear to make the Sieg Heil salute. One student also seems to be flashing a white power sign with his hand. 

Not every boy salutes in the image, however. One, Jordan Blue, refused to do so. He told CBS News that he had little warning when the photographer, Pete Gust, told them to raise their hands. 

“As soon as I heard the photographer say, 'Raise your hand,' I knew what was going to happen,” Blue said. “He said, you know, 'Raise your hand.’ He did not say, 'Raise your hand in a Nazi symbol way.' And I’m pretty sure my classmates just interpreted it as, ‘Raise your hand, let's do this as a joke.’”

CBS News reporter Adriana Diaz asked Blue if he thought the other classmates knew what they were doing.

“I think they did," Blue said. "It did not represent my morals, and I could not do something that I didn't believe in. Some of these people have bright futures ahead of them. So why did they do it?”

Gust, a former social studies teacher who majored in history in college, defended the photo, saying he didn’t tell the boys to salute anything. 

"[I said,] 'Give me ... a wave that you're saying goodbye to your parents.’  And I called it ‘high five' ... and so I stuck my hand up, and I said, ‘This is what I want.’ I didn't tell them to salute anything,” he told news outlet Madison 365.

Gust has since removed the photo from his website. "To anyone that was hurt I sincerely apologize,” he wrote in its place.

The photo sparked outrage at a school board meeting Monday night. “A demonstration of an absolutely despicable attitude!” one school board member said. 

The school district is investigating.