Monday, August 1, 2016

Photogenic Kids

     When I was a kid, not many of my classmates looked great in our low-tech middle school year book with card stock cover. Our awkward, uncomfortable, and insecure personalities somehow showed even in the low-definition photocopier-quality likenesses printed on plain paper pages secured with staples down the center spine.
     How times have changed!
     The most salient feature in my daughter's expensive, glossy, hard-cover year book overstuffed with too many pages of teeny-tiny color photos galore are the number of photogenic kids with bright eyes and smiles, and tons of confident show-case personalities—this despite their being not especially handsome or pretty by objective standards, even looking less mature than many of my peers looked at their ages, probably in part because we got a lot more sun than kids these days do.
     I marveled as I leafed through that there were dozens of great photos that featured a cute smile, laughing eyes, a suggestive smirk, a mysteriously averted gaze, or other flattering aspect. The camera must love these kids, I thought.
     Whereas our yearbook from the 1970s contained perhaps only five or so “nice” shots that featured a pasted-on smile, hair coiffed perfectly, an attractive and complementary shirt or blouse. Technology aside, why the huge change in the photographic subjects? I eventually realized that back in my time, the ones who looked great were either the outcasts or misfits or the overly self-absorbed who probably spent way too much time in front of a mirror, primping and experimenting with different poses and smiles. My mom made me do it one year in elementary school before picture-taking because she'd gotten fed-up with my awful likenesses from years past. After forty minutes of back-and-forth between her coaching and bathroom mirror practice with different smiles, I finally got one that satisfied her and she said, “Perfect. Memorize that and use it tomorrow.” It was slightly open-mouthed with raised brows, stretched back lips, upright posture, and slightly raised chin. Mom was so super-pleased with the school photo that year, I use the same basic smile to this day.
     Too many kids these days are armed with smart phones, so it stands to reason that many such kids would get way too much practice taking selfies, posting them on social media, and forwarding them to friends. No wonder they're so photogenic, they're practicing all the time with instant feedback technology. (Whereas back in my time, film cameras took days, weeks, or months to see how things turned out. Mirrors obviously gave instant feedback but weren't the same. Smiling before a camera could be daunting as film was expensive and you only had one shot, so it had to be good. The main thing was don't blink—even though you knew the flash was going to sting your eyes and you'd see sparkles on hazy black for the next minute or two. Today's super light-sensitive digital cameras by contrast require hardly a flash at all. No wonder we had such wooden smiles.)
     By the way, our family does not possess a smart phone and my kids and I aren't especially photogenic. They do alright, though, similar to most of their peers and we're satisfied. I feel I take way better photos of them than the school does and have never purchased school formal photos. We have purchased group class photos on occasion (mostly the younger years when they were soo cute.)

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