It’s 1978. I’m in 6th grade and it’s picture day at school. My hair, freshly combed with the black, plastic pocket comb all students received, was long and straight. I wore a sage green smock top and my face was bare. Make-up was unheard of then for elementary grade students.
I looked completely and utterly like myself.
Our class photo was taken outside on the playground. We arranged ourselves around and on a jungle gym piece of equipment, making for a vital and unique picture. In a group photo of twenty something pre-pubescent children, it would be impossible for the photographer to capture each of us looking at our best, but that was part of the experience.
It was real.
Flash forward to 2021. I’m now a homeroom teacher to a class of sixth grade students in their first year of middle school. As I distributed the envelopes which offer photo packages in advance of Picture Day, I took a look at the order form. There are a lot of options these days for backgrounds, finishes and related photo merchandise.
And touch ups, of course.
Yes, for either $8 or $10 extra one can have their child’s imperfections digitally addressed and removed from their photos.
I addressed my class and directed their attention to that part of the order envelope, making it clear to them that the additional charge and service was completely unnecessary.
They are perfect.
They look like 11 and 12 year-olds, which is exactly who they are. Freckled or with fading summer tans or a first pimple, their faces reflect their ages flawlessly. Isn’t that the purpose of school photos, if there even is one in this selfie-obsessed culture?
When I look back at my school photos, complete with self-inflicted crooked bangs and questionable 70s fashion, I see a child putting their best face forward. Isn’t that enough?
What do we want to teach them?