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Prompted By Group Photos

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Family reunion 2019

This week’s prompt says it used to be common to take group photos but that now the trend is to more candid shots, and it asks if we regret not taking group photos in recent years. However, in my experience group photos continue to be taken all the time. Every year when we have a family reunion, we have at least one group photo session, with endless time spent arranging everyone, and, if we are indoors, moving furniture, taking art off the walls, and making other adjustments to make the picture perfect. It was tempting to put up dozens of these photos, but I have limited myself to the top ten. Also, when I get together with a group of any kind, we take a group photo, so I have included a few recent non-family pictures at the end.

I do not relate to the idea that group photos are no longer in vogue. For me they are a constant in my life!

This is the oldest group photo of my family that I have been able to find, and it might have been our first official reunion. It was 1986, my nephew had just been born (he is not in the picture), my daughter Sabrina (on my lap) is 1½ years old, and we are somewhere on the Cape. The little girl in the back row is my niece, age 9.

 

This next one is from 1997, more than a decade later, in Santa Fe, and I have another baby on my lap, Molly, who is one year old and doesn’t want to be in the picture. Sabrina, now 12½ years old, is in the middle of the back row, with my nephew (just born at time of pic above) and my son (still two years from being born in pic above) on either side of her. On the far right in the back row is my niece, who was 9 in the previous picture and is 20 here.

 

Even when we went to an amusement park, we had to stop outside to take a group photo. This is from a reunion in 1999 in northern San Diego County. Once again, Molly, now age three, didn’t want to be in the picture.

 

This might be the only photo I have of the entire extended family, including my aunt and my cousins. We were all together that Thanksgiving because my nephew’s bar mitzvah was the following Saturday. Here Molly is not resisting, but I am holding onto her (back row) just in case she decides to bolt.

Thanksgiving 1999

The next picture was taken when our family went on a cruise in December 2005, something we will probably never want to do again, thanks to covid. Molly is no longer the youngest, because the Italian branch of our family came with us, my step-niece and her husband (far left of both rows) and their two small sons (in front of Molly).

 

We stopped outside the front door of my house to take a group photo before walking to the synagogue for Shabbat services on the night before Molly’s bat mitzvah in 2009.

 

This very green photo was taken at a family reunion in 2013 at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York. Over the years we held many family gatherings at Mohonk, but that year they gave reunioning families matching green t-shirts, with the option of having them personalized with a family slogan. We declined to get them personalized, but decided that it would be funny if we all wore them to dinner one night and took a picture.

 

Our family reunion in 2015 was one of the last ones with my mother. That year and the next we gathered in Florida in July, despite the dreadful heat and humidity, because that’s where my mother was living and it was too hard for her to travel anywhere else. I’m including this picture rather than the one from 2016, which was her last reunion, because Sabrina is in this one, and she didn’t make the trip from Spain the next year. Of course if we had had any idea that my mother wouldn’t be around in 2017, I would have insisted that Sabrina come, but my mother seemed perfectly healthy until three weeks before she died.

 

The picture from our 2019 reunion is the featured image, the last time we were all together, although of course with the notable absence of my mother.

There was no reunion in 2020, but when we gathered again in 2021, Sabrina was unable to join us because of covid-related restrictions on international travel. However, we added Emily, Ben’s fiancée, to the picture (next to me). And you will note that the little girl in her father’s arms in the picture above is almost as tall as he is in the picture below.

 

In addition to family group photos, I have group photos from many other events I have attended in recent years, of which I will include only three. This is a picture of almost everyone in my high school class, at a reunion in 2006. That was 38 years after we graduated, not the usual interval for a reunion, but it was part of an all-school reunion organized by someone from an earlier class. Since that time, two members of the class have died, so I’m glad we got together when we did.

 

This was the members of the Board of my temple Sisterhood when we went to a convention in San Diego in 2018. Of course we had to pose for a group photo!

 

Finally, here is a 2018 gathering of some of my college classmates in New York, which I organized, to attend a performance of the show Desperate Measures in which our classmate Nick Wyman was one of the stars. While we were waiting for him to come out and greet us after the show, we took a group photo.

There are many more photos that I could include, but I fear that they would not be of interest to anyone but me. Suffice it to say that I do not relate to the idea that group photos are no longer in vogue. For me they are a constant in my life!

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Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    I’m with you, Suzy. I love looking at your family through the ages (it is fun for me to see my old Brandeis professor too). It’s interesting to see how everyone looks as they grow up, find spouses and have their own families. But I might be the oddity, as I consider it like looking at a form of history.

    I insist on group photos for my family as well, so we are (again) kindred spirits. Our families do not have any sort of regular reunions, but when we get together, I always insist on marking the occasion with a photo. Thanks for sharing all your great ones.

    • Suzy says:

      I don’t think you are an oddity, but then that’s probably because you and I think alike on this issue. Glad you spotted your Brandeis prof in a bunch of the photos. He has opted not to come to the last couple of reunions, but he is over 90 now, so we understand. I can’t imagine getting together and NOT taking a group photo!

  2. John Shutkin says:

    I’m afraid I’ve done you a slight disservice, Suzy. In praising Betsy for her amazing collection of family photos, I had not focused on the fact that you, too, have been a family and other group photo taker/keeper par excellence in your Retro stories. And you certainly display your chops here in this amazing collection over the years.

    Not only is this a great collection in and of itself but, based on my perusal of the photos, somehow virtually every one in every photo is smiling and looking happy. (The only exception might be the one young man in sunglasses in the middle of the front row in the Legoland photo; but I understand the imperative to mainly look cool at that age.)

    So thank you for sharing these with us. As well as for the earworm that is “Kodachrome” and now buzzing through my head.

    • Suzy says:

      My photos are certainly not well organized like Betsy’s, but in the current facebook era they are much easier to find than they used to be. So while I know it is popular to diss facebook, it has been invaluable to me.

      Generally we ARE all happy to have the picture taken, although, as you point out, in the Legoland pic my nephew is looking a little surly (but note how he and my son have cool matching sunglasses!). Also Molly in that picture is angrily struggling to get away from my grasp.

      And thanks for appreciating my title, it has been pleasantly buzzing through my head all week.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    How lucky that your family has kept up its annual family reunion and the tradition of taking those photos. Thanks for sharing some of your favorites. Because of Covid, we haven’t seen our siblings all together. The last time was in 2019 at my granddaughters’ b”not mitzvah where we wrangled the photographer into taking one of us with our sibs. Wishing we had tried to get a full family photo, but it wasn’t our call.

    • Suzy says:

      Laurie, I think I would have insisted on a full family photo if I had been at that b’not mitzvah, but then I will probably be an annoyingly pushy grandmother if I ever get to have that role. I hope your kids appreciate that you step back when something isn’t your call.

  4. Marian says:

    Great pics, Suzy, and I am especially impressed that they are relatively contemporary. I applaud you and your family for being so motivated to have reunions and then get everyone together for photos!

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, Mare. I have a few pics from my childhood that I have used in other stories, and then a couple of even older ones from before my time, but my New York sister is the main repository of my parents’ photos. A cousin recently sent me a wonderful one of my grandparents, their sibs, and my very young mother and aunt. I was going to use it in this story, but then it didn’t fit my eventual premise, which is that group photos are not a thing of the past.

  5. Great photos Suzy and you’re one lucky girl to have such a large tight-knit family.

    Neither Danny nor I have living siblings, we have only one child and so far no grandkids, my only nephew is in Maryland and severely disabled, and other than some beloved cousins in New York , most of them are far-flung — across the continent, in Hawaii, Italy, France and Israel.

    Once travel is safer we hope to reunite with them all and we’ll take lots of photos!!

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, Dana, I know I am a lucky girl to have such a tight-knit family, although not large compared to many. We are a small enough group to fit into one Airbnb house, which is great!

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    Love that song–there is also a park in Utah near Bryce named “Kodachrome”, camped there and definitely inspired the earworm. Great pictures. I have a couple of group pictures where everyone is in matching Tshirts or pajamas too–the things we do for love!

  7. You are a world champion at arranging — and, most important, archiving — group photos, Suzy! It’s brain-whirling to watch this family march through time together, as much a testament to how close your family must be as to your photo collecting talents. You, of course, remain lively and lovely through all. My favorite pic is of you holding a struggling Molly, happily displaying a serene smile on your face. Thanks for the history of a close and supportive family!

  8. Jim Willis says:

    Suzy, I enjoyed reading your journey through the ritual of group photography, and you have amassed quite a collection. I feel this may be just the tip of the iceberg! Your remembrances reminded me of the different ways in which two halves of my family approach group photos. In the case of my two sons (both unmarried) and me, we live in different states, and we’re all so independent, we do well just to get together a couple times a year. As for the second family I’ve been in for 22 years, via my second wife, we all live in the same town and could publish a book of family photos.

  9. Susan Bennet says:

    Just beautiful, Suzy! Family is everything, and what a gift family photos are to generations that follow.

    I am sure the others have noticed what I have noticed about these photos: Dorian-a Gray appears in all of them. 🙂

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