I was just doing a little reminiscing today when a name came to mind. I taught in a small rural high school in Scioto County, and I wanted to refresh my memory about one of my students, so I found a copy of the old Valley High School Annual. The teachers used to receive these every year as a gift from the students. I quickly found the girl I was looking for in the senior portrait section, and I thought, "Yeah, that's pretty much the way I remember she looked." I was tempted to shove the annual back onto the shelf and walk away when the thought of newer senior photography I have seen on Facebook struck me.
With all of the graphics editing programs and tools at hand -- brushes, color controls, retouching devices, special effects, layers, filters, and other refining gadgets -- do the yearbook portraits represent even the slightest physical appearance of the subject they captured in the senior year?
I remember once hearing that Crazy Horse boasted he would never allow the white man's camera to "steal his shadow." No fully authenticated image of him exists, although several photographs have been published purporting to be him. I just wonder if Photoshop is allowing computer programs to "steal the shadow" of seniors if it grossly distorts their image in some of the most memorable photos in their lives. By whose standards are we allowing our image to be judged? Do more tools allow us more deception in the manner of portraying our image?
Since the advent of photography the photographic image has been regarded as an aide‐mémoire. The very act of taking a photograph signals the moment as worthy of remembering and, while objects break, landscapes change, and people die, the photograph endures, allowing it to be used to remember ‘what has been.' (arts.jrank.org, 2010)
Michael Lesy, a writer and professor of literary journalism at Hampshire College has looked at hundreds of thousands, if not millions of family snapshots over the years. In his book Time Frames: The Meaning of Family Pictures, he described these photos as "psychic tableaux, in which the flow of profane time has been stopped and in which a sacred interval of self-conscious revelation has been imposed by the cutting edge of the frame, the glare of the sun, or the flash of a strobe." (Lee Kravitz, "Windows Into Our Psyche," Psychology Today, September 29 2010)
Lesy also called them "frozen dreams whose manifest content may be understood at a glance but whose latent content is enmeshed in unconscious associations, cultural norms, art historical cliches, and transcendental motifs." Artistic photos are truly captured moments of time as striking images.