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Shuffling through old photos from last fall, I encountered this shot of a clutch of pre-teen girls at a high school football game. They were loud and silly and happy, and every time we intersected along the sidelines of the game, they immediately snapped into glamour magazine formation. My participation in this silliness was not optional: they were far too charming and insistent to ignore. And so I snapped a few frames and moved on, thinking little of it. I wound up running into the same girls three or four times during the game, and each time they ran through the same drill ... squeals, smiles, and then "VOGUE!!!"

Days later, while editing the pictures from that night, I skipped right past the photos of the precocious would-be models. As a photographer, they just weren't what I was after that night: subtle, revealing documentary shots of the scene at a high school football game. I never really found such a shot that night and wound up publishing a photo of the game itself. And with that task completed, I moved on, days passed, and the little girls disappeared into the mists of my photo archive.

Until today. Now I look at the same shot, of these silly little girls on the cusp of young womanhood, and I see something I couldn't see that night so many months ago. Same picture, the same set of eyes looking at it, and yet something is different this time around. Now I see something poignant and beautiful in that split-second of pre-adolescent preening. Question is, how did I miss it in the first place?

Perhaps it wasn't really an oversight on my part at all. Perhaps we see best with the benefit of distance, when the passage of time allows the banal reality of a moment to morph into the lovely fiction of a memory.

It's a pretty idea, of course. Then again, a more grounded sort might point out that I'm simply a lousy photo editor--a possibility I'm fully prepared to accept.

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The Beauty of Oversight
March 2007