At the beginning of June, we traveled to Florida to visit family, but also to attend my high school drama teacher's (surprise!) retirement party. It was through the drama program that I first realized my interest in capturing and conveying stories and memories through photographs: along with my friend Suzanne (who has also made a career of photography), I was the elected co-historian of my drama program for two years in a row. Back then, we documented our drama program's rehearsals, auditions, competitions, and shows through 35mm snapshots, poster board collages, Hi8 video, and slideshows mounted on carousels, which we would show at our end-of-the-year awards night. Suzanne and I would stay up late nights, create mix tapes of the songs that we'd play alongside the slideshow, counting out the beats per minute, to decide how many beats per slide we'd allow. On the night of the show, we'd wheel the AV cart carrying our carousel projector halfway down the aisle of the auditorium, and "perform" the slideshow, with our handwritten notes and counting out the beats in each song, syncing each slide with the beats we'd practiced.
17 years later, the technology has changed, and creating a slideshow and syncing with music has become much easier. We can create the whole project digitally, edit, and display the finished project at the event. But for me, creating a great slideshow still relies on old-fashioned storytelling techniques: what photos go well together, what kind of story are we telling with each grouping of photos, and what kind of music helps convey that story?
I offered to create a slideshow for the event, and crowdsourced photos from the different generations of drama kids, in order to span my drama teacher's illustrious 26-year career at the school. As expected, the photos came in many different formats: from print snapshots to slides and negatives, from Facebook albums to digital SLR high resolution files. I scanned the prints, slides, and negatives, and edited all the images for color and size, so they'd all fit similarly on the screen. I grouped photos together and created a narrative, so the show would have a beginning, middle, and end. I felt that telling a chronological story was less interesting for this project: instead, I chose to organize by the typical flow of the drama student's year, from classes to competitions, to the shows, and candids. What I loved about seeing the more recent students' photos was how similar their years and photos were to the ones I remembered: goofy poses between competitive events at Districts, dressed up troupe portraits before the night shows at State.
Above is an excerpt of the slideshow. Creating it was a powerful experience, as was showing it and returning to the auditorium where I spent many hours of my youth. Even though we don't see each other as often as we used to, the friends I made there were like my family; we graduated and may have moved away, but we're still all linked by our membership in Troupe 1620.