Nostalgia Sunday – Class photos

September 12, 2010 - 9:42 PM by

For decades, the class photo-collage — tmunat mahzor — was the way Israelis marked school graduations. It still is. Unlike the US with is pricey yearbooks, (which have their own historical reasons for coming into being), by grouping them together. the Israeli class photo was a relatively inexpensive way to derive maximum impact from small-sized individual portraits.

In the early days, the graphics were lovingly, if amateurishly, hand-drawn, as in this class photo of the 1929 graduating class of Tel Aviv’s legendary Herzliya Gymnasium.

The collage also documented historical events. The Ramat Gan elementary school’s grade 8-II honored its graduation in 1948 with the words “The first in the State of Israel”.

As the tradition entered its second generation, layout was handed over to the professionals as in this photo-collage of the Acre Naval Academy’s 1957 graduating class.

And mid-century modern was the graphic style of choice.

Even today, there are still photographers in Israel who specialize in creating this style of class photo-collage. Of course, the cameras are digital and the layout (and airbrushing!) is done with Photoshop or similar programs. But the spirit of the thing persists. Here’s the Herzliya Gymnasium senior class, circa 2004.

This last one doesn’t have a lot going for it graphically but it’s very special to me because it’s my eighth grade class photo from 1973-4, marking our graduation from primary school. (You can click on it to get a better look).

Each child was given the large group photo-collage, plus a small white paper packet that contained the individual passport-sized portraits.

1973-4 was of course, the year of the Yom Kippur War. But it was also the year my family spent in Israel; a significant year for me at the end of which I decided Israel was a pretty good place to live. And, as Yom Kippur rolls around again, with this week as time to reflect, perhaps even reconsider, I have to say: I still think so.

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