Nancy Leith Musser sent me photos of my sister, three years older than me, that she clipped from our school newspaper, The Garnet and Gray. My sister was once its student editor (she later died in her early 30s). You all have read her stuff, but didn’t realize it.
In the photos, she is seen grouped with four or five other students. A group photo emphasizes the activity and interaction, rather than the individuals. I suspect the student photography staff were taught to take group photos. We can see this in the yearbook photos: almost all are of groups. Individual photos were reserved for graduating seniors.
In the photos of my sister, only a few of the others I recognize as her friends. This, too, is typical. The people we were grouped with were only the people who were nearby when the student photographer walked in. It was the photographer who put us together at random and had us act out a fake activity, like showing fascination over a classmate pointing out Ethiopia on a map of Europe. A friend or two may be in the photo, but only by chance. And yet there we are, seen by generations of descendants with people we barely knew ourselves, while the good friends who shaped our lives remain forever anonymous.
If I were a yearbook editor today, I would ask people to come out with their best buds to be photographed as a group (is the term “clique” still used?). There would certainly be surprises, but, for the most part, we remember classmates by the group they were in.
So, you millennials, don’t ask your grandparents who that was standing next to them. They may not know.