once upon a photo

perhaps my favorite photo of all time.

They have so many stories to tell.
Not just one.
Not just the story of the frozen moment the photo was taken.

Photos are a memory.

Photos become the narrative of our memory.

Photos become an integral part of the history of who we are and who we explain we "used to be" to others.

Doesn't this sound like all of us when looking at a personal photo:
"Hey, I remember this photo ... I was [insert age], at [insert place], and [insert reference to something that was happening before and/or after the frozen moment in the photo]"

* This posted photo was taken way back before digital cameras were readily available, so actually the shot is even more fabulous because it was my one and only chance to capture this exact stance.

This photo has a story that has been alive for fifteen years.

Cover: Two girls. Age 5. At our school library looking for books.

Page 1: When I got the developed 4x6 photo back from the camera store, I immediately knew it was a favorite. I was captivated by the rich personality and vitality of the shot: the two very different stances of these girls, the chair and the stool, the tall and less tall, the red shoes, the untied shoe, the long braid, the heads tilting "reading" for which book to pull off the shelf and the book shelves filled with books as the background. 

Page 2: I gave this photo, enlarged and framed, to our school librarian who in turn added it to the rotation of framed book posters that she displayed on a wall in the school library.

Page 3: Years later, the framed photo was gifted to the parents of one of the students in the photo. 

Page 4: Years later, at present time, part of the photo was posted on Facebook by "long braid, red shoes" as she had just discovered the framed work being stored at their home. She had a sweet caption that she had added for her friends to read "just looking for my favorite book." I happen to be 'friends' with K on Facebook (she is 20ish now!) and saw her posted photo. 

Page 5: I made a comment to K about the photo and told her I'd love to write about it on my blog. The travels of this particular photo has reconnected me with K in a fun way, has offered her a reflection on when she was 5 to share with her friends, and has circled back to me to now post on an early education blog that absolutely didn't exist fifteen years ago. 

Personally, as the photographer of the photo yet also the teacher of these two girls long ago...I could also say this photo makes me think of K and her amazing positive spirit. I think of K's family with whom I have remained close all these years (her father married my husband and me, K's younger sister was our flower girl). I think about the other girl in the photo, H, whom I have already written about on this blog as she was the writer of Lilly's Umbrella Hat click here to read her story
Professionally, this photo says "CHILDREN LOVE BOOKS. Give children time to LOVE BOOKS." And, for teachers, be deliberate about the photos you share: sure, take a zillion on your digital camera, yet really LOOK at the photos, be SELECTIVE and CHOOSE the story you want to tell.

Photo stories are powerful.
That is the story of this photo as of today. 

And now all of you are part of this photo story...and can retell it, share it, blog about it, tweet about it, and become extended storytellers of this one captured moment from 15 years ago.


  1. I am K's mother and I am a fanatic reader and this is my all-time favorite photo because it reminds me of both my love of K and my love of books and libraries!! It's on the wall across from my bed so it's the first thing I see every morning when I wake up. Thanks Miss Jeanne!

  2. @K's mother - thank you for your comments :) Children, books, schools, families, teachers...all incredible connectors that weave together the fabric of our lives. Please forward/share this post with all who would delight in seeing K with her long braid and red 'chucks' !

  3. I taught for years without taking photos. I worried the camera would just get in my way, I didn't want to experience the children "through a view finder." A year or so ago, I downloaded at app for my phone that allowed me to take pictures by just tapping the screen, allowing me to pretty much take pictures without ever even glancing at the camera. I just get it out a few times each day, hold it at my side and start tapping the screen sort of randomly. I've been amazed at the stories I find when I get home and look at the pictures. They capture so much that I had no idea about at the time.

  4. @Tom - that's a cool way to be a photographer. Sounds like it is a surprise at the end of each day to find what is actually on your camera! I've been photographing and documenting for most of my career (20ish years) and couldn't imagine being a teacher without those tools daily. Thanks for your comments and your continued inspiration as a blogger!

  5. Thank you for sharing this treasured moment, captured for posterity, shared innocence.

    What takes my breath away is the abundance of the books, crammed together, squeezed, squashed, mashed: so many books.

    The best part? The whole conglomeration is obviously accessible, available, abundant. Only a stool, or chair away -- the whole world.

    Please forgive me for a passing, fleeting moment when I sigh for the children for whom such a collection is not a stool's reach away.

    We must work to bring books into the reach of children..... as this photo demonstrates.

  6. @Debbie - thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree, books are such a treasure for ALL children to be able to access :)


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