Sunday, March 11, 2012

Family Pictures

Olan Mills

When I was a kid we would take a family portrait at least once a year.  It was very important to my mom.  Olan Mills popularized a style of family portrait that wound up on the walls of almost every home in America in the 70's, 80's, and 90's.  Every thing had to be just so; the grouping of the people, the placement of a hand, the negative space, the soft gradient background.  You didn't need to see the little gold script seal in the corner to know where it was made.

Looking at the pictures now it is interesting to see us as kids, it brings back good memories.  The standardized way that Olan Mills worked created an affordable memory, a snap shot in time of you trying to look your best.  I remember getting ready for the picture sessions; we all had to get into our Sunday best... if mom was going to take us there and spend the money we were going to look our best.  Waiting in the lobby was like waiting for a doctor, there was redeeming value though in getting to see all of the pictures of other people on the walls... I loved looking at those pictures on the wall...
When they were ready for us we would be ushered into the studio.  Mom would select the backdrop she wanted and they would set up the boxes and the rugs.  The photographer posed everyone, said something stupid to make us smile and snapped the shot.  He replaced the film holder and the process started again.  A week(?) later mom would go see the proofs and pick out the ones she liked.  A couple weeks after that she would pick the prints up and replace the previous portrait in the living room.

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