Monday, July 28, 2014

No Hand Signals In The Picture Please

Last week I participated in a professional development institute where a group photo of the cohort was taken at the end of the session. The institute was a part of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and what I found interesting was the fact that the professional photographer felt the need to ask the one hundred and twenty or so of us being photographed to please not flash hand signals in the photo. Think about that for a minute. School leaders from across the country were assembled at Harvard University and when we were taking our group picture the professional photographer felt the need to ask us not to display any form of hand gestures in the photo. I thought about this for a couple of minutes and my mind reflected upon pictures I had taken recently of students, friends, and family members and more often than not, someone would have his/her fingers/hands positioned in some sort of gesture or sign. As you know this blog is called The Critical Thinker in an attempt to cause you to stop, pause for a few minutes and think about
an issue regardless of how significant or insignificant it may be. This seemingly increased need to flash hand signals in every photo is one of those issues. Probably one that no one would stop to think about unless someone brought it to your attention like I am now or like it was for me when the photographer specifically requested that no one flash any hand signals in our group photo. The question I have is, what is this need to always have something going on with some sort of signal in a photo? Do we not know what to do with our hands when we take a picture? Is there a message that everyone is supposed to receive from the signal?  Or maybe, it's just the reverse, only a select few will know what the signals mean when they see the photo. Either way, in many instances all of this hand gesturing can mess up a what would have been a good photo. The age old two fingers behind someone else's head in the photo is still alive and well, but there now is a plethora of other signals that seem to be cropping up. The fact that a
professional photographer on the campus of Harvard University taking a photo of school leaders from around the country had to literally say to us, "Please no one flash any hand signs," tells me that once again we don't know when to say when. That once again something that may be appropriate in one setting  is not appropriate in another and too many  of us do not know or act like we do not know the difference. I am sure the flashing of hand signals in a photo in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, however, when every time you take a picture a hand signal has to appear, that is a problem. There is a time and place for everything and apparently the photographer has had prior experiences with groups to the point that he felt the need to ask us up front not to flash any sort of hand signal in the photo.  This is right up there with signs having to be placed
in movie theaters and churches asking that cell phones be turned off while during the church service or while watching the movie. There are just some things that ought to be common sense, but as you know, in many respects in 2014, common sense is not too common.  Just take a look at any of the social media sites and you will find yourself asking yourself does anyone take a picture any more without having some hand signal displayed? Take a look on Instagram or Facebook and see just how many hand signals you see. The truth be told, all of these gestures are not good. Many are gang affiliated that are indeed intended to send a message. These hand signals like anything else need to be used responsibly and the fact that a professional photographer at Harvard University had to
make it a point to tell us before he clicked the shutter button not to flash hand signals, tells me that too many of us are abusing something as simple as taking a photograph.
We are messing up people's pictures. As always, something to critically think about. Let us be more responsible with everything, even as simple as when to use hand signals in a photo and when not to.

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