“The whole point of taking pictures is
so that you don’t have to explain things with words.”
–Elliott Erwitt, The Joy of Photographing People
November 23, 1976 was a Tuesday. Thanksgiving was just two days away, and the kids at an elementary school outside of Boston gathered in the school cafeteria for a paper-plate Thanksgiving feast. Some of them donned Indian costumes and feather headbands made out of brown paper bags. Most of the boys wore tall black pilgrim hats fashioned out of black construction paper. The majority of girls wore white paper pilgrim bonnets and collars.
I have been gathering photos of Gen-Xers for this blog for so many years. These black and white photos are such an amazing find. Rarely have I come across such clear images taken of school children in the 1970s. It was such a shoddy era for candid photography. Too many broken flash cubes. Too many Fotomats.
I wrote about 1970s photography in a 2017 post after discovering a beautiful photo archive of Barry Rich’s family. If you’re new to this blog, I invite you to check ou Barry Rich Photo Archive Features the Splendid History of Gen-Xers in the 20th Century. Here is an excerpt:
Finally, Rich shot with 35 mm film in those glorious days before duck-lipped selfies and oversharing. His photos are the splendid history of not only his beloved sons, but their generation. They illuminate what the 110 snapshots and Polaroids rarely captured and struggled to preserve: the contrast, composition and color fidelity of Generation X. With his pictures, he preserved our depth of field.”
These images of 3rd-grade pilgrims and Indians — all first-wave Gen-Xers born in 1966 and 1967 — illuminate brief moments in time for the Baby Buster Generation more commonly referred to as Generation X. In many of the frames, the children are unaware that someone is clicking a camera. In other instances when the lens finds an eye, the child peering back looks tentative and distrusting.
Beyond a crowded lunchroom and the obligatory school cafeteria Thanksgiving, what exactly did the photographer capture? What do the pictures tell us about America during Thanksgiving 1976? Do the images make any cultural or political statements? If so, what are they?
Photo Credit: B Fasulo