While attending photography school in Massachusetts, my instructors often stressed that as photographers, we would be in a position to preserve a tradition or a piece of knowledge. That is true in many aspects when we think of the types of photographs that are captured by a professional photographer: engagement, wedding, baby, confirmation, sports and school pictures.
At photography school, the most loathed photography assignment was either school pictures or church directory pictures. If one survived an afternoon of either of these, you certainly were in the running for any of the Olympic races. We, however, were reminded that both of these did prove needed income; therefore, our best attention was needed.
Each year as school picture day makes its appearance, I have to smile because a flood of memories comes back. My very first exposure to school photography came through the very experienced hands, eyes and wit of Curtis Strand, previous owner of Strand Studio.
He told me right up front, "If there is anything more trying in the picture business than a bossy mother of the bride, it is school picture day!"
I laughed as he mentioned that this is the day that many kids decide completely on their own to restyle their hair after arriving at school. He also gave me a list of educators who would rather have all their wisdom teeth removed rather than pose for a school picture. Curt was right - picture day turned out to be in a drama category all by itself. Believe me, I could have been handed several Emmys!
Picture day is the time of year when the all-important "me" parades into the lives of modest parents' lives, holding up the "traffic" of everyday events. All else must stop while the fanfare of latest clothing, hairstyle and attitude marches right over the dinner table and front and center into the living room.
Several years ago, Mrs. Sobolik gave me a cartoon entitled, "If Kids Took over School Picture Day." As you enter, you can select from several styles of clothing - including cool costumes to impress your grandparents - not to mention make-up and hair styles abounding like the leaves of autumn. For just a little extra, you can also bring your pet in for pictures. Just in case your teeth are mother of pearl in color, not to worry - there is an instant teeth-whitening booth. We both shared a good laugh as picture day is merely part of the school day - not the complete agenda for the day.
My very favorite part of taking school pictures was to listen to the many comments children made. Over the 20-plus years of school photography, I heard some great one-liners - especially from the children in grades K-3. One boy said, "Did you know this morning my dad wore my mom's bathrobe while brushing his teeth!" or "My mom combed my hair to the right and the left." Also from a sweet first grader, "Well, last night my folks tried to get me to look as good as I could." From a precious little girl with curls abounding, said "Did you see - I wore stick-on earrings to match my pretty dress."
My first school pictures were done on film. One certainly had to pay attention to make sure their eyes were open and their expression was decent. There was certainly a lot of equipment and often something could go wrong. I
clearly remember when Carol Miiller was teaching kindergarten and said, "Oh, I have to go first - I sure hope I don't break the camera!" When the flash went off, there was a giant pop - she did break the camera!"
Over the years, teachers from time to time would dress up in wild outfits - such as the time Gail Rham appeared before the school camera attired in a complete lime green polyester pant suit. As each class or group was photographed during film, you were required to slate the film just like they do in Hollywood between takes. So from time to time I took the liberty to write something creative.
Such was the case for Deb Zavada of Wolford - wife of superintendent Larry Zavada. She proudly held up the slate which read, "I am red hot - just ask the superintendent." On a pressing day such as this, laughter was always most welcome.
My advice for school pictures always was this: Wear something you like and look good in. Remember this photo is a reflection and likeness of you - this is not a good time to follow the herd. Be a maverick and stick to a style that reflects you. Comb or style your hair and smile because who know where this photo will appear 30 years from now.
This salad was served after my fourth-grade picture with Mrs. Lewis. We were fans of using real cream delivered weekly to our home by Gretchen Schafer. After all, it was good for our complexions.
Apricot Nectar Salad
2 pkg. orange Jell-O
1 1/2 cups hot water
3 1/2 cups nectar
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 large can Mandarin oranges
1/2 cup sugar
Dash of salt
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup cream
Dissolve Jell-O in water; add 2 1/2 cups nectar. Add marshmallows and mandarin oranges. Chill until firm. Combine sugar, salt, flour, egg and 1 cup apricot nectar in saucepan; cook until thick cool. Whip cream in filling. Spread on top of Jell-O. Refrigerate. Yield: 15 servings.