There’s Always One

The following article first appeared on April 25, 2009 for my The Humor of It…Through a Different Lens column for Shades of the Departed.  footnoteMaven has graciously allowed me to reprint my Humor of It articles here on What’s Past is Prologue.  I’m currently on hiatus writing this column for Shades, but I encourage you to visit the latest edition of the digital magazine for some excellent writing and photography!

When it comes to taking a group photo, there always seems to be one – one person who completely, unequivocally messes up the shot. I don’t mean The One ruins the photo accidentally by blinking or by glancing in the wrong direction just as the shutter is pressed. No, The One is the person who intentionally seeks to spoil the shot by unscrupulously sabotaging the sacred and unwritten photo-taking rules that make us all smile politely until it’s over.

A common offense is the use of so-called bunny ears – two fingers positioned behind another’s head. Who among us does not have a perfectly lovely group photo in which One Person deviously adds appendages to an unsuspecting friend? To children, this is absolutely hysterical!

My brother is “bunnied” by his daughter, December 2006.

To big children, it’s still hysterical!

My friend Joe and I are victimized in Rocky Mountain National Park by our German friends Peter and Franz, September 1995.

I took this poorly framed photo of my “adopted” aunt and uncle on the dance floor at my brother’s wedding in 1993, but at the time I didn’t realize my mother, sheepishly grinning on the far left, was a Bunny Ear Giver. At least we know where my niece gets it from.

Mom gives Lillian some bunny ears, November 1993.

Not even celebrities are immune to the curse of the Suddenly Appearing Bunny Ears!

President G.H.W. Bush gives his wife Barbara the ears, 1997. Source Photo originally appeared in Newsweek magazine, April 1997

But Bunny Ear Givers are not the only offenders among those who seek to destroy your group photograph. There are also the Leaners. A Leaner likes to be on the far edge of a group photo. Then they wait patiently until just that right moment between “1, 2…” and “Cheese!” when they suddenly and aggressively shove themselves towards the center of the group. This naturally causes a domino effect among the other group members, and much hilarity to all but the photographer and the person at the bottom of the pile.

My brother’s hockey team gets Leaned on, circa 1976.

Sometimes Leaners are somewhat less hostile and become a Look At Me! A Look At Me! takes more initiative and doesn’t wait for that exact moment. They simply get in between the group and the photographer in the most obtrusive manner possible. As you can see, my family suffers from various forms of these illnesses.

My brother gets in the way, November 2007.

Here’s another Look At Me! The group knew the charger in the photo, and if the photographer hadn’t snapped the shutter at this exact moment, he’d have captured a Leaner event instead as Look At Me rushed towards us at extreme speed.

Mt. Vesuvius hasn’t erupted in a while, but a Look At Me was let loose at Pompeii, April 2006.

My final category to illustrate how there’s always One person seeking to spoil your group photo consists of the Funny Faces. I’m not trying to be offensive to unattractive people – I mean those who purposely make funny faces just to ruin your shot. To illustrate this category, I present the genetic carrier of the DNA in my family that causes these photo disturbances. I have very few photographs of my maternal grandmother. In the ones I do have, she is a very attractive woman in her younger years. But there are few, if any, of her as an older woman. She always said she didn’t like to have her photo taken, but I have finally uncovered the truth. After seeing this picture, I think she was banned from group photographs by her family.

My grandmother, godfather, mother, and brother, circa 1965

Yes, folks, that’s my grandma! I guess it really does run in the family.

While there’s always One, it can actually be worse…you can have multiple offenders in your group. There’s really no hope if your family contains several folks with these tendencies as you can see here:

I’m the Bunny Ear Giver, but there’s also a Leaner and more than one Funny Face in this group! March 1991.

The next time your family gathers together for a tender photo moment, ponder your choices. You can either be good, sit up straight, and smile. Or, you can be One of Them. You, too, can be a Bunny Ear Giver, a Leaner, a Look At Me, or a Funny Face. Or, if you have friends and family like mine, just have everyone unleash their inner child AT THE SAME TIME.

The Pointkouski Family, who will now formally disown me November, 2007.

Childish? Of course. But the result is priceless. And a little embarrassing. But after this, we actually got some nice, normal family photos since it was all out of our system!

If you are the photographer in your family, just remember there’s always One. Or Many!


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