June 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
June 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

We have now entered the somewhat bizarre portion of the summer when parents are bombarded with camp photos. To be clear, when we use the term “camp” photos, we are not talking about photos that are absurdly and amusingly exaggerated. That is a different sort of campiness. In this context, we are, of course, talking about summer camp photos, which are growing exponentially in popularity and, perhaps, excessiveness.

As soon as the sleepaway season begins, camps begin the incessant and insane onslaught of daily photos that make it seem like our children are A-list celebrities who are being hounded by paparazzi. Summer camps have become completely obsessed with photo-journaling nearly every second of camp life and circulating a library of images of our children in an amount that, in almost any other context, might warrant investigation by local, state and federal authorities.

Many moons ago, in a time before iPhones and the internet (i.e., what our children view as prehistoric times), camps did not and could not offer a virtual peek inside the bunk, so to speak. Instead, parents dropped their kids off at the bus for summer camp and then they literally did not see their children for a full two months, except for one relatively brief (and often forced) face-to-face reunion on visiting day. Otherwise, there were no photos, videos or other proof-of-life. At best, parents received a phone call from their kids once a week and possibly a letter or postcard. Somehow, parents and campers survived the limited contact and, at summer’s end, parents were able to recognize their kids without having been peppered with weeks of mugshots.

Sadly, the summer camp photo blitz typically leads to parental obsession with and misinterpretation of the images. For example, when a photo is released of a child smiling on a sunny day, some parents will construe it through their own misguided lens of insecurity and doubt. They might ask themselves: “Is my child smiling because he is genuinely happy or is he using a fake smile to mask his underlying pain?” Other parents might wonder: “Why is my smiling child alone in this photo? Does she not have any friends? Is her expression less of a Duchenne smile and more of a wistful smile caused by social shunning?”

When reviewing camp photos, some parents shift into Sherlock Holmes mode, scrupulously studying every detail of a photo in a desperate hunt for clues. They will scrutinize clothing, hairstyles, body language, poses and backgrounds in a mad search to recreate the precise emotion that their child was feeling when the photo was taken. From there, they will extrapolate into cockamamie theories about whether their children are enjoying or loathing their summer camp experience. Some parents will do all of this based on a single photo, believing they can somehow crack the code through their aesthetic interpretation.

For example, if a photo shows a camper posing with unfamiliar faces, some parents might pessimistically wonder why their kid is making new friends: “Have his old friends abandoned him? Has he been ostracized by his childhood buddies? How many times have I told him that the whole point of having lifelong friends, regardless of whether you actually enjoy their company, is that you never have to make new ones?!?!? Why would he jeopardize that security and take such a risk? I need to call the camp and speak with his counselor right away!”

By way of further example, if a camp photo shows a camper in a new setting, some parents will read the worst into it: “Why is she playing volleyball? None of her close friends play volleyball! Why on earth would she think independently and explore new activities? Doesn’t she understand that such nonconformity can be social suicide? How many times have I told her to mindlessly follow the pack and don’t rock the boat?!?! I need to text the camp director ASAP!”

Some might argue that many camp photos are overly orchestrated and therefore offer relatively little insight into a camper’s actual satisfaction or state of mind.

In other words, what is captured on film often lacks the spontaneity and joie de vivre that can only be experienced in-person and in real-time. To put it another way, instead of directing campers to say “cheese,” they should be told to say “contrived.” At the end of the day (or summer), some camp photos may be nothing more than a treasure trove of artificial moments and, thus, photographic fool’s gold.

Final thought: A picture is worth a 1,000 words and a social media post is worth a 1,000 likes.

By Jon Kranz

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles