Remember school class photograph day? When your mum spruced your up uniform, combed every strand of hair in place until fixed like Action Man’s, prior to leaving the house, for you only to roll around the school field’s mud pit half an hour later? You’d parade into the hall with your mates, shirt tucked in but hanging out one side, tie either too stumpy or too thin and hanging past your muddy knees, one sock up, one sock down and the mop of Bob Geldof on a bad hair day atop your acne-spattered chops.
You were separated off according to size by a scrawny buffoon with a camera, insanely giggling through bucked teeth; looked like he just escaped the freak show. Made to stand next to the ropey frump whose mum dressed her like a pantomime flower girl, despite resembling the frog more; you remember that over-anxious miss who’d gnawed her fingernails to the bone, who you couldn’t stand to be within ten desk spaces of unless planning to drop a spider under her collar? Now you had to stand next to her, as if in decades to come mates will jeer at you and sneer, “and was that your girlfriend, ha-ha?”
The result would be an image of your, and twenty-six other repelled expressions, but least it was real.
Tall kids slouched randomly on PE benches, save the fatso who regimentally thrust out his chest until buttons popped, struggling to balance on the plinth. Nerds and taller girls took the middle row, beamed button smiles and prettily creased their freckled noses. Airborne dust, churned up from the fifth year’s PE lesson, gave the photo a haze, to mirror your vauge mien.
One kid was picking his nose, another his backside, and all stood awaiting the snap. Except for paranoid short persons, whose darkest fears were now confirmed; they were small, summoned to sit cross-legged in the front row. Though it may’ve been their epiphany of why they were subject to harassment, least it was actual.
For all its faults, the class photo was a classic, barely changed since the Victorian era, save fashion and décor of the school hall. You could age a person from their school photo, just by the feel of it, the ambiance, and the style of the teacher’s attire and kid’s hair. It was natural, loose and tangible, if not a circus of torment.
Yet today, the class photo is something altogether different, have you seen them? Gone is the school hall, replaced by a dull white background, where children appear to float a round like a Chagall painting. They pose them in small groups, then photoshop them together like they were Jordan’s cleavage. One group of guys appear to be modelled on an amateur boy band, others grasp random objects bearing no relevance; one straddles an inflatable banana, others slouch over huge azure teddy bears, or else drape from a metal stepladder, wondering why.
I imagine some company figured, brokenly, that it’d be more “fun,” and the rest followed like sheep, despite having no inkling as to the shape of fun if it punched them on the hooter wearing a t-shirt saying “I Am Fun.” A twisted sardonic establishment tenet construing art, poorly. Children are not models, unless they’re model children, this isn’t a glamour photoshoot, it’s a class photo, for crying out loud into a widescreen filter.
Female pupils, sorry students, instructed to pout and perch against posts like the working girls of Kings Cross, else pose like a kingfisher balancing on a branch. Props too; a giant ruler erected, or chess pieces scattered, books left open as if someone would read one. The teacher is three-quarterly rotated on a chair, showing a tad of leg, and a smile can be added over the top of their under-paid frustrated frown with an app later.
Now you may consider I’m taking this too far, no one cares, it’s just a photo. But I quiver at these atrocities, for it’s a prime example of how plastic and clichéd our society is today, how our striving for transformation generates a manufactured philosophy where everything has to look white, and fake. I can shudder at the memories captured in my school photo, the tatty work on the walls of the hall, the dreaded PE equipment chained to it in the background, else the individual appearance of each child, reflecting their characters.
What memories will our children conjure when they look at these mono-cultured, catalogue shoot- art pieces, like homogenous Bauhaus architecture, stiff, designed stances of phoney exploit? It’s so fake it’s cringeworthily, I don’t recognise my child in them, it’s absent of his character, so vague of authenticity; though I confess, it reflects modern life to a T.
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