School pictures are not positive things no matter how you look at them. The process is traumatic, the preparation is painstaking, and nine times out of ten they do not turn out as you expected. If school pictures were medical cases, they would have the lowest survival rate of any case. In a way, I think school pictures are preparing students everywhere to accept the fact that one day they will be equally badly photographed as adults.
If you think about it, school pictures are the most pivotal moment of the year of the teenager. You prepare for Picture Day with the best clothes you own and practice smiling in front of the mirror. This would be frowned upon in any other circumstance, but any onlooker would surely understand the significance of Picture Day and not judge you. The home preparation is only half of the battle, however, because once you leave the controlled environment of home, you then enter the arena in which you must maintain the perfected appearance until it is time to snap the actual picture. This is the tough part. This was especially difficult depending on the kind of classes you had before your school picture, like for me in seventh grade when my school picture was scheduled directly after wood shop where we would be staining benches. Naturally, I could not manage to maintain my perfected appearance and ended up taking my seventh grade school picture with, among other calamities that befell it, a stain on my floral patterned shirt from wood shop class.
Taking the school picture is not any easier. You wait in a line, usually in some order that reflects your last name, and when it is your turn you go and sit on a terribly uncomfortable stool. I used to look quickly at the background and wonder why anyone though it was natural to be before a blue sky. When I take pictures outside, there is always land behind me, I’m not in a hot air balloon floating over everything. Yet my picture is not about what is natural, and which is made evident by my “trying too hard” practiced smile. In my fated seventh grade school picture, I had the unfortunate disadvantage of braces, which were an even greater disadvantage because I had decided to adorn them is with blue and yellow rubber bands as a nod to my school colors, which in turn yielded the impression of yellow teeth. Oh actually let me take that back, just ONE yellow front tooth.
The guy who takes our photos in school probably wanted to be a real photographer and experienced a rather shocking crash into reality. I think he knows we hate everything about school picture day, and bears the weight of much disappointment as he knows there is no way we will like our picture.
Finally, there is the day when the pictures finally arrive. It is a judgment day of sorts, and truly separates the lucky from the unlucky ones. We wait an exorbitant amount of time for these pictures we will surely want to trash, and when they finally come there, is absolutely no patience among school-age students. We want our packages and we want them now. Nothing can get in our way. I still remember that day in 7th grade when I opened up my school picture to see the tragic disappointment that lay before me. When I brought that picture home to my mother, I remember her shrugging and saying “well, it’s going on the piano.”
To this day I am terrified of floral patterned shirts.
School pictures are surely a right of passage, a necessary teenage evil which promises to haunt us for days, or in my case, years to come.