A Picture Should Speak a Thousand Words
I will never forget my first grade year in school. Back then there was no kindergarten or pre-K so it was my first experience with public school. Being around all the other kids all day was difficult for me, especially during the first part of the year. Being an only child and painfully shy made me feel a lot like I imagined Daniel felt just as they tossed him into the lion’s den.
But I immediately fell in love with my teacher, a stocky red-head named Mrs. Fields. She had an amazing talent with small children and I was totally convinced she was the smartest woman in the world, next of course to my Momma. That was also the year I discovered the two things that have remained most consistent throughout my life.
The first of those was books. My parents weren’t big readers. So, up to then, my only real exposure to reading had been sitting on my Daddy’s lap on Sunday mornings listening to him read me the funnies, and listening to my Momma read scriptures along with the preacher in church every Sunday.
When I realized those odd marks on the pages were actually words it was as if an atomic bomb went off in my head. Those pages held the descriptions and adventures of people I could spend time with without having to be afraid. I couldn’t get enough books, and by the end of my first grade year I was easily reading on a 3rd or 4th grade level. That love of the written has never failed me, and is a part of me to this day.
The second thing I discovered was photography. I won a small green Brownie camera at a store opening my parents went to. It was a total fluke. I wasn’t even old enough to enter, so they gave me the camera because I thought it was pretty and the rest of the prize went to my Momma. I didn’t care. The camera and I became inseparable. I carried it with me everywhere, it and a book. I didn’t get an SLR, film at the time, until I was in my mid-thirties. But I’ve never been without a camera of some kind since I was that 1st grader who won her first one in a department store drawing that she was too young to enter.
Adults and toddlers count their milestones by age, but for the school age child those milestones are counted by grade. In first grade they achieved this or discovered that. In fifth grade they decided they wanted to be an astronaut, but by sixth grade that had changed to firefighter or teacher or veterinarian. Each year of school represents a new facet of a child’s personality on their journey to adulthood.
Personally I feel like those are the things we need to mark and remember. That is why school pictures are so important. Each New Year’s school picture is a mile marker in a child’s life. Unfortunately, the way school pictures have been traditionally done, herding kids through an assembly line of snap – next – snap, doesn’t capture much of who the child really is. When I look back at my second grade picture I don’t see anything but a frightened little girl who wasn’t even wearing her own dress. Her teacher decided her dress was much prettier than the one worn by the “class favorite” so she made them trade clothes for the class pictures. The beautiful red dress and crisp white blouse my mother made me were immortalized on someone else. And my camera and book were nowhere in sight. At least now seniors have options beyond a classic black shoulder drape or a suit in the school gym.
But what about all those precious memories in between?
I truly believe it is time for a change. I’m not sure how, given the traditional setting for school pictures. But there has to be a way. In the meantime, I encourage parents to find some way to immortalize the beginning of each school year with pictures that reflect who their child truly is at that point in his or her life. Lots of photographers and studios offer reasonably priced beginning of the school year specials. And who your child is at that point in time deserves to be remembered.
When I go back through old family photos now I can’t find a single picture of me with my camera and book. It was a true milestone in my life and yet it’s almost like the person I was then didn’t exist. Ten, twenty or more years from now don’t let your child look back and find only stiff pictures on a stock background. Give them something to validate who they were along their journey to who they will become.
By: Patricia Hart
Southern Moon Photography, LLC - August 29, 2014
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