Here & there: School picture day

Stock image | St. George News

FEATURE — The only day more frustrating than school picture day is retake picture day.

Retake day means that all of the original effort put into trying to immortalize your child (who will never be 6! or in first grade! or this precious ever again!) were for naught. The haircuts, the gel, the coaxing into collared shirts, the avoiding spills at breakfast, the preening, the promises – all worthless.

If photographers were put on a spectrum, school photographers land somewhere between prison mugshot photographers and those at the DMV. But it’s not all their fault. We have to consider their subjects.

One year I showed up to school pictures with a newly minted and very tight home perm along with two front teeth my face hadn’t quite grown into. Another year I showed up with only half of my eyelashes thanks to some zealous bang trimming at the hands of my mother.

What’s a school photographer to do?

In other cases, they have perfectly adequate subjects but they still blow it. My boys don’t usually have tight perms or missing eyelashes and look quite normal when I send them off to school on picture day. But still, weeks later, what usually comes home stuffed and rumpled in the flimsy oversized photography envelopes are odd looking strangers.

One year, my middle boy looked as if he’d just suffered a punch to the gut. Another year, this same boy had his collar readjusted by the photographer to look like an extra in Boogie Nights.

So on retake day, I don’t mess around. I go to school with my kids to supervise the process. While waiting in line with them this year, I overhead the other students sharing why they were doing retakes.

A small second-grader with a buzzed head and a crew-neck grey sweater said he had to take new pictures because he looked “freaked out” in the originals.

Another boy in the same class with shaggy hair and a grey sweater adorned with Chewbaca said his mom thought he “looked a little weird” last time.

When it was my second-graders turn to be in front of the camera, he apprehensively walked around the barrier made by the ceiling-high backdrop and planted his feet on the two red shoe outlines on the floor. The photographer told him where to put his hands, how to stand and to smile.

The result was a simpering look not even a mother could love.

I asked him to take it again. This time he told a joke – and my kid laughed. Not quite perfection. But at least it looked like him.

Last year a local family photographer took pictures of the entire Kindergarten at our neighborhood school. She volunteered her time on one condition: She got to shoot the kids as she saw fit.

The results were amazing – and messy and imperfect and real. The kids had dirt on their clothes, sweat on their cheeks or hair flying about – or all three.

She caught them after recess and cropped their faces tight. She caught their freckles, their eyes squinting in the sun, and their freshness. She also caught their childhood.

I wish all school photos could be like this. In these times when my 8-year-old practices in gym class what do if there is a live shooter on the premises, I want to know – and remember – that he laughed and played and had some messy joy at school, along with the math and reading and science.

I want to capture that, not an expression of horror as he has to stand rigidly in front of an electric blue background and “smile.”

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • utahdiablo November 12, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    Have them just take a ‘selfie”…problem solved

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