This week we were privileged to have as one of our convocation speakers Becci Manson. She is a photograph retoucher by profession, using Photoshop to adjust images for publication, and very good she is, too. In answer to a question from a student about how to learn the profession, she explained that she is a big believer in Malcolm Gladwell's concept that it takes 10,000 hours to really master something.
Becci came to school as part of the Hubbard Speakers Series, which this year is dedicated to our school theme – memory. Photographs are one of the most salient ways in which we access memories; we all love looking at family albums and baby pictures, perhaps even more so in today’s world of Facebook and Instagram. It's amazing how a photograph can bring to life a particular incident or moment in our past. I have a photograph of my closest brother and me; I think we must be 6 and 7 years old. To this day, I remember the feel of the fabric of my dress, the hand-knitted sweater my brother was wearing, as well as where we were. Becci told the students that photographs are “our memory-keepers and our histories, the last thing we would grab, and the first thing you'd go back to look for.”
Becci not only talked about her craft, but also how she had used her extraordinary talent to help others. In 2011 when the tsunami hit Japan, Becci, like most of us, was moved by the images she saw of the incredible damage and decided she needed to help. So she travelled to Japan and worked in the mud and the debris. She helped with the general cleanup effort and while doing so she came across many photographs. She said, "During those 3 weeks of digging ditches and gutting homes I discovered vast amounts of photos that had been found and handed into evacuation centers. The photos were dirty, wet and homeless. As I spent my first day hand-cleaning them, I couldn’t help but think how easy it would be for me, my colleagues and my friends to fix some of them. So we did."
She organized a system whereby volunteers would scan images in Japan and then send them to these individuals all over the world who could repair the damage. The before and after images of families and children thus restored were amazing. Indeed, it was hard to believe that some of the photographs could be repaired. You can get a good sense of the restoration project in the talk Becci gave for Ted Global, which has had over 600,000 views.
Becci was an inspirational example of someone using her talents for the common good, as well as a reminder of the power of images. This year, the Loomis community has spent a great deal of time looking at old images of the school and imagining what it must have been like over the years. If you have not already done so, check out the school's Centennial website, as well as the Centennial history written by former Head of School John Ratté and Archivist Karen Parsons, Cherished Hopes and Honorable Ambition. In addition to a new history of the school, the book contains essays by many alumni, current and former teachers, and even today’s students who recount their individual memories of the school over the decades. Looking at those old photographs and reading the individual recollections provide wonderful insight into the school’s first 100 years.