In the dentist's chair today. Waiting. I notice nearby a few school pictures of young children belonging to someone who works here. The kids are smiling. Hopeful. About ten years old or so.
And I'm quickly thinking about how the whole school-picture thing has changed in my lifetime. It was always a Grand Event when I was a kid (We get to get out of class!). And, of course, it was one of the few pictures taken of me exclusively the entire year. People in our family had Kodak Brownie cameras that would come out on holidays and special occasions, cameras that recorded in black-and-white (until later) the doings of, generally, groups of us. Not just of Little Old Me.
It was a bit of a hassle then, taking a picture. Buy the film. Load the camera. Take the pictures. Remove the film from the camera. Take the film to the camera shop or drug store. Wait a week. See if any of the pictures "came out." There were always a few--or more than a few--that didn't.
Later, I (an adult!) had a roll of film that I inadvertently loaded again in the camera. When it came back from processing, I realized I had a roll of double-exposures. One bizarre photo showed my wife and son and me in Rugby, North Dakota, standing at a monument declaring this was the Geographical Center of North America. There we stood, smiling, superimposed on a picnic picture in Washington (state), a picnic with my uncle John and his family in Walla Walla. That was weird. Wish I'd saved it.
Anyway, in "my day," school pictures were, as I said, black-and-white. One take only. (Re-takes were far in the future. Didn't like your picture? Tough! Don't buy any!)
As a teacher, I found School Picture Day to be every bit as enjoyable as I had in boyhood. We get out of class! I would accompany a class down to the gym/Commons/wherever, get my picture taken first, then "monitor" the kids until all in my class had finished. Then ... the long, slow Death Walk back to the classroom, where we would return to the differences between who and whom, the intricacies of a Shakespearean sonnet, the delights of writing an essay.
And then, somewhat later, much excitement (surprise, delight, disappointment, horror) when the pictures arrived. There were kids who would show no one what the camera had caught; others were merrily signing them to friends as soon as they opened the packages. As a kid I was not allowed to do that (not that I wanted to) until I'd taken them home. Mom wanted to make sure we saved a couple in an album, gave some to Grandma and Grandpa. Then and only then could I exchange some with friends.
Below are four photographs that show my first school picture (1st grade, Adams Elementary School; Enid, Okla.; 1950), my final school picture (Hiram High School; Hiram, Ohio, 1962), my first photo as a teacher (Aurora Middle School; Aurora, Ohio, 1966), my final photo as a teacher (Western Reserve Academy; Hudson, Ohio, 2011).
I've changed a little.
As, of course, has the whole process of picture-taking. The ubiquitous cellphone camera--and, before that, the digital camera--has made it ridiculously easy to take pictures of yourself, myriads of them, and, within seconds, to share them with the entire world--a world whose servers are now jammed with selfies--overflowing with selfies--servers no doubt yearning for a younger world when the Self was a smaller figure, quivering in a dim corner.