Dan Morris: Capturing a moment in time – but still so cringeworthy!
Combs at the ready and wet wipes on stand-by – it’s school picture time! Ah those heady days when our childhood and teenage visages were immortalised in often brutal formality.
I remember as an eight-year-old the struggle to flatten my stubbornly spiky hair, and then the arduous hours of deliberately cultivating said spikes with gel when I was 14. All of course so that on this one day of the year, Daniel Graham Morris could look respectable as a child, and (hopefully) fanciable as a teenager. How we grow, eh?..
School pictures are a timeless tradition and trial that we all have to go through. There are a lucky few of us that are able to look back on said pictures without cringing, but they, ladies and gentlemen, are a firm and exclusive minority.
For most of us, when the schools pics are wheeled out – whether this be at Christmas, Bar Mitzvahs, weddings or (obviously) the day you bring your first girlfriend home – the knee-jerk reaction is one of staunch swallow-me-up-world embarrassment.
And I would be remiss not to proudly fly my flag as a member of the wider populace in this regard.
For the first couple of years, my school pictures were relatively cute – most four and five-year-olds are of course. But, alas, as time went on the angelic babe my mother had so nurtured mutated into a mischievous little bloke with prominent front teeth and spots aplenty.
I remember one particular year during primary school I had for some reason decided to take my school picture very seriously, and rather than smiling sweetly in cherubic fashion as I had done in previous years, I decided to adopt a sullen and serious expression almost akin to a traditional sepia portrait of a Victorian gentleman. For a seven-year-old with a pudding-bowl haircut, this was not a good look.
As the years went on, my picture day pose became more relaxed, and of course, with secondary school, the hairstyles became all the more ridiculous.
Blonde streaks first joined the ensemble when I was 13, and industrial strength V05 glue accompanied them to perfect my impression of a sun-kissed porcupine. Piercings crept into the mix when I was 14, only heightening my self-perceived status as some sort of post-punk, hedgehog-looking heartthrob. Luckily I did wait until the legal age of 18 before my first tattoo. This could have taken school pics to a whole new level.
And alas, all of my many fashion and moody-teenaged faux pas have been preserved forever in a collection of official school photographs that chronicle the evolution of Daniel Morris the sweet little boy into Dan Morris the almost-a-man. As stated, ‘cringe’ is the word.
School pictures serve a very important purpose though. Like photographs of any sort, they are a conduit and prompt to memories of a different time. And reflecting on time at school once you’re an adult can be important. Like it or not, school is where most of us are formed, and lay the foundations for who we are going to become. During later life, it can be very important to reconnect with our childhood and teenage selves, remember our dreams, and make sure we are doing said youngster of yesteryear justice.
As well as shuddering at some of my questionable bouffants, when I look back at my school pics these days, I am reminded of the Lego-loving kid for whom so much was once possible.
Rather than what I’d say to him now, I think more about what he’d say to me.
“I can’t believe we’re still playing with Lego at 32” would probably be where he’d begin. Well, a bloke needs a hobby, don’t he? But I’d like to think he’d be reasonably chuffed with how we’ve turned out. The hair is infinitely better for a start, and we’re lucky enough to be doing a job we’d always dreamed of.
But of course, with said gig comes a funny twist. In the world of newspapers, ‘school picture day’ is never done. While those in most professions escape the formality of staged photographs when they depart the world of education, for journalists, the ‘byline picture’ steps in to pick up right where the school photo left off.
To this day, many of us at Weekend Towers still regress into the awkward grins that inhabited our teenaged portraits every time our resident camera wizards deem us ready for an updated profile pic.
Luckily though the hair bleach is now absent, the earrings have long since departed, and these days we can do wonderful things with Photoshop.
As the kids make their return, or indeed, first steps into school, it can be fun as grown-ups to reflect on our school pictures, and the time we spent in our formative years.
We may not always like our school portraits, but they were proof we were there, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
And if you can’t laugh at a pic of your younger self, you’re missing out on one of life’s funniest treasures.
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