School photos. The kind you might actually hang on the wall.

I have for a long time loved the, let’s be honest, boring, traditional school photos from my childhood years because they made me laugh. You could argue, that this is a good enough reason to keep the tradition going. The blue or grey background, the staged fake smile that portrays little of the individual’s personalty (unless the child is remarkably relaxed in front of a stranger with a camera, naturally) and the look of get-me-out-of-here-and-back-to-resess we all so adore to see in photographs of our children. Or not.

So, last year I figured I would create my daughter’s Christmas cards for her classmates from a series of school portraits, the way I think they should be captured. These are some of the results.

With permission from the Principal, I gathered up groups of 4 kids at a time, selected a location they would feel comfortable in and which represented a memory of their school years: the big tall tree in the middle of the school yard. The texture of the tree together with being outside, provided us with beautiful natural light, and gave the images an earthy, relaxed feel. The expressions were achieved through conversation, imagination and stories, and I took between 3-8 pictures of each child, from which I shortlisted the final 28.

I was really stoked with the results, as were the teacher, who went and purchased frames for each photo, allowing the Christmas cards to transform into presents for the parents. The thoughts I received from the parents were really positive, with the most memorable feedback being about how much the images captured the personality of their children. That is right up there for me, and all I can hope to achieve when making portraits.

I am excited to be in the process of creating a plan for how I can bring my style of portraits to more schools, and I would love to hear from you if you think your school might be interested.

I, for one, would really like it if I could help get more school photos of children up on the wall to be loved and remembered, instead of them ending up as the majority seems to do, in deep drawers or boxes in the basement.

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