Photo Smarts

Photo Smarts by Helen Hufford


A picture is worth a thousand words.
– Napoleon Bonaparte

  One picture is worth 1,000 denials.
– Ronald Reagan


“The game this afternoon?” Carly asked wide-eyed, as she nibbled on her lower lip.

“That’s right. I need someone to cover it,” Ginny King replied. “Come on, Carly. Don’t let me down.” Ginny touched her shoulder assuredly.

“But I didn’t bring my camera to school today,” Carly answered sulkily.

“Use mine,” her teacher grinned as she handed her the case.” Now, scoot and don’t be late. The game starts at four. I’ll ask Mrs. Candiotti to let you out of detention early.” Ginny laughed as she walked out the door. 

Carly watched the game from the bleachers. She followed her friend, Katie, with her eyes, camera poised for an action shot. Just as Katie was rising to take a shot from behind the line, Carly was prepared to take a shot herself.  Swoosh! Three points. Holy Cross had won! Carly was confident that this one would be featured in the online school newspaper. Photojournalism usually involved more writing than Carly cared to think about, but sometimes a little luck at being in the right place at the right time could help out. Take for instance this afternoon. This was the first chance Carly had at impressing her friends, parents, and teacher with her photography. Although she grudgingly accepted the assignment from Mrs. King, she did want to see her byline and photograph on the school website. Katie would be really happy too. Carly knew Katie was trying to land an athletic scholarship, and coaches from colleges she was interested in would be impressed. Satisfied with the work she had done, Carly smiled to herself and sighed softly.

Immediately after the game, Carly joined her friends at the Red Robin across the street from the gym. She waited in line for only a minute when Emma wedged her way through the crowd and poked Carly in the ribs.

“Follow me,” she mouthed, not bothering to compete with the background music, waitresses and a huge robin mascot singing “Happy Birthday” to an eight year old, and the chatter from the rest of the basketball game spectators who were pouring through the double doors of the restaurant.

“Joe and I left one minute before the end of game to get this table,” Emma explained as she took a sideways glance at her newest boyfriend, a lean and lanky forward in his fourth year at Loyola Blakefield. 

“Too bad. You missed the best part. Katie scored during the last fifteen seconds of the game. It was fantastic,” Lauren commented. “It was totally out of the blue.”

“Carly, where were you?” Emma asked, cocking her head to the side.

“Yeah. Where were you? I was in the gym sitting on the right side, under the cross country championship banner, with Jacob, where we were all supposed to meet, but we didn’t see you there.” Lauren said as she reached for a nacho chip and absent-mindedly double dipped.

“I was taking pictures from the other side of the gym. I’m glad Mrs. King asked me to help out this afternoon in spite of the fact that it kept me from sitting with you guys, and I had to use her camera,” Carly explained to her friends. She sipped her chocolate malt milkshake, the reward she allowed herself for a job well done, before pulling the camera out of her handbag and passing it around the table. 

“Awesome. Let me see the pictures.” Lauren implored as she brushed the crumbs from her fingertips onto the napkin on her lap.

“Pretty impressive work. Katie will be so happy you took this picture of her winning shot,” Lauren crossed her legs, and reached for another nacho.

“Look. You and I are in the background of this shot, Emma” Joe pointed out, passing the camera back.

Sam sat down next to her brother, Jacob, just as the camera was again handed around the table. Typically a high scoring forward center for Holy Cross, Sam broke her arm in a pick-up game in her neighborhood two days ago. The coach and her parents, who were grounding her this coming weekend, were furious with her for recklessly playing around when her team was counting on her.

“Lucky Katie,” Sam stared blankly at the photos Carly had taken.

“We’re in Katie’s shot, too,” Lauren pointed out to Jacob. “I can’t believe I really look like that when I laugh.”

“Oh, you do” Emma confirmed. “I swear you do.”

“Thanks for being so honest” Lauren replied, feeling the vibration of her cell phone in her pocket.

“What are friends for?” quipped Emma, crinkling her eyes and nose.

“I’m the only person not in a picture from the game!” complained Sam, “It seems weird.”

“Say cheese” Lauren, who happened to be holding the camera, snapped a candid shot of Sam who made a funny face on cue. “Now you have nothing to complain about.”

The camera circled around the table once more. Lauren excused herself to check her text messages in private, a habit she acquired from attending a school for girls. She returned a few minutes later, a more subdued Lauren.  

“You guys. I need to return that camera to Mrs. King” Carly forced a tight-lipped smile. “I’m going to try to catch a ride home with Anna over there,” she said. She quickly made her way across the restaurant and then hurried back to grab her backpack, leave money for the check, and pick up Mrs. King’s camera.

In the midst of the now half-full Red Robin, the rest of the group settled up the bill and disbanded.

The next day at 2:25 pm, Ginny had the front office page Carly Beaumont to come down before leaving the school building.

“Carly, I expected you to return my camera this morning,” Ginny raised her eyebrows. Carly, who had been a star on the hockey field last fall, underwent knee surgery during the winter break. She missed so many classes this semester that Ginny was worried about her academically. Ginny, who wanted to see Carly earn a good grade and enjoy the class, assigned the basketball game to her because she knew that Carly had a strong interest in sports.    

“I’m sorry” Carly replied. She had stored it in her locker first thing that morning and really could not find the time to run it back to the photojournalism room during the fifteen minute break the students were allotted. “I got some great pictures. Hope you like them.” Carly placed the camera in Mrs. King’s outstretched hands and fled. 

Later that evening, Ginny was expected to take photographs at the new Archbishop’s reception at Holy Cross. She arrived in the nick of time with her camera in hand. A photographer from Galeone Studios was also scheduled to attend the event, but Ginny was accustomed to cover virtually all of the school events to snap a variety of photographs for the yearbook and other school publications. On this March evening, as Archbishop Lori stepped into the foyer of the school building, he was warmly greeted by the principal and vice-principals of the school.

“Good evening, Your Excellency,” the sisters said, each in turn.

“So pleased to meet you,” he replied graciously.

Ginny selected the best vantage point while introductions ensued. Snap. Snap. After a few candid shots she walked over to a secluded corner of the Music Hall to double check her camera. When she snapped the pictures, she was aware of an unusual icon hovering in the left corner of the viewfinder that she had never seen before.  Blast it! The memory card was missing.      Thank goodness Mr. Paul Galeone himself had just arrived.  Ginny frowned and then pulled out her cell phone and called home.

The home phone was answered promptly, for a change.

“Hi, Katelyn, I have a question for you. Were you checking the pictures on my school camera right after school today?” Ginny asked, tapping her foot all the while.

“No, Mom, why?” her daughter replied. Ginny told her she was just wondering. Katelyn, a sophomore at Holy Cross, who was used to having a mother with a reputation as the school sleuth, knew better than to press her for more information.

“I know our paths might have crossed for a few minutes right after school, but I’ve been at dance class helping Miss Lisa with the kindergarteners for most of the afternoon. Now I’m working on my chemistry homework. Oh, yes, I also took Shadow for a walk and fed him.  Dad brought Chinese carry-out. When will you be home?” Katelyn added.

“I’ll be home soon.” Ginny responded as she glanced around the Music Hall, content that Galeone had everything under control.

On Friday morning, Ginny wanted to hurry to school after leading her boot camp aerobics session at the Western YMCA from 6:00-6:50 am, a favorite among many of the working women in Catonsville. However, instead, she maintained her cool as she let her sixteen-year-old daughter drive her there. Ginny, known for her high energy level and abundant enthusiasm, tried to live up to the popular image she projected, and nearly always succeeded. She enjoyed her part-time teaching job at Holy Cross more than her part-time job as a reporter for the Catonsville Times, even though it sometimes led to a migraine. She was working on practicing patience, so she took the morning drive with Katelyn as an opportunity to strengthen her endurance.

The aroma of cinnamon buns filled the hallway emanating from the Bird Room where the Scholar’s Breakfast for the newly inducted honor society members was underway. Ginny strolled into the Bird Room, centrally located in the school and decorated in a Victorian style featuring pictures of various types of birds on every wall, to grab a cup of coffee and a donut before heading upstairs to the photojournalism classroom. Shirley Candiotti stood next to the coffee dispenser, pouring multiple creamers into her coffee mug. Ginny walked over to where she was standing and reached for a packet of sugar.

“Good morning. I need to talk to you privately. Do you have a minute?” Ginny stirred her coffee and glanced around the room.

“Sure. Meet me in my office right after the beginning of first block. You’re off then, aren’t you?” Ginny nodded, and Shirley picked up her plate of goodies and headed out the door.

Halfway through the first block, Ginny sunk into the chair facing Shirley and set her second cup of coffee and donut on the table by her side. Shirley left the door ajar, but shut it enough for a private conversation with Ginny, before she slid into the chair next to her.

“Someone stole the memory card from my camera – the school camera” Ginny blurted out.

“Wait. Aren’t I usually asking for your help in tracking down the culprits around here?” Mrs. Candiotti, the vice-principal in charge of discipline, asked. Over the years that Ginny had been employed at Holy Cross, she had impressed the administration with her ability to identify the delinquents in several incidents that quite frankly had left them baffled. Last year, disturbing graffiti in the girl’s gym locker room and in a few of the lavatories proved to be a difficult case to solve. With her understanding of the nature of adolescents, and a little luck, King discovered the identity of the guilty party, an emotionally charged student struggling with the break-up of her parents’ marriage. During the previous year, Ginny came to Shirley’s aid twice. First, in the fall, when Daphne Zenith was livid because her Bath & Body Works hand sanitizers were stolen from her classroom, Ginny tracked down the thief and extracted a confession. Then, she demonstrated her prowess again that year when she uncovered the exploits of a handful of seniors who had cut classes for weeks during the spring. In addition to her strong intuition and powers of observation, Ginny’s natural warmth and upbeat personality made her a likely confidante for the girls. Consequently, she was often privy to information that eluded others from her generation.       

Shirley sipped her coffee tentatively and placed her index finger on her temple. “Tell me about it.” She was ready to listen.

“Carly Beaumont used the camera to take pictures at the basketball play-off on Wednesday. She returned it to me yesterday afternoon, at the end of the school day. I had to call her down to the front office to get it. After I took a few pictures at the reception for Archbishop Lori last night, I discovered that the memory card was missing,” Ginny relayed the bad news as concisely as possible. “We’ve lost all of the pictures from the basketball game,” Ginny grimaced and stuffed a piece of donut into her mouth.

“Well, this is the second theft I’ve heard of this week.” Shirley confided. “Heather told me she thinks a test was taken from the top drawer of her desk.” She broke another donut in two and recalled the events of last year’s bout of kleptomania in the school. “I don’t know what to think. Last year, we were all convinced that the worst was over when Jill Moran withdrew from school in the spring. The string of thefts throughout the school suddenly stopped. Now it’s happening all over again. This déjà vu is unnerving.” 

“I doubt that the two events are related,” offered Ginny. “Rumors of a rise in cheating on tests have been circulating recently, but –.”

A rap on the door interrupted their conversation.

“Mrs. Candiotti, may I come in?” Giselle Montague, an English teacher from the third floor, asked.

“Yes, Giselle,” Mrs. Candiotti approached the door to respond to the second emergency of the day. Lately, she always seemed to have an endless list of crises at her door.

 “The cell phones of Lauren Cole and Maura Wilson both went off in the middle of our Holocaust class. Here they are.” Giselle placed the phones on the desk of the disciplinarian.

“OK.” Shirley browsed her list of cell phone violators, and sure enough, this was Lauren’s second offense. “It looks like she’s up for in-school suspension. I’ll see them both at the end of the day.”

Ginny left Shirley Candiotti’s office and entered the photojournalism classroom where a dozen juniors and seniors were gathered around computers, ready to edit articles and lay out the next online edition of the school newspaper.

“Mrs. King, we’re finished with the article about Mr. Miller’s presentation from the assembly two weeks ago. Would you like to take a look at it?” Emma called out from the back of the room.

“Sure.” Ginny skimmed through the article. “Great job! We’re going to feature it. I knew I could count on you.” Ginny pumped Emma up with her contagious enthusiasm.

  “Do you think we have enough room to include this 2001 yearbook picture of his daughter?” Anna asked.

“Yes, that’s a terrific idea,” Ginny responded. She was wondering how they would fill in the gap now that the pictures from the basketball game were missing. She wanted to balance the article on Mr. Miller’s presentation on date rape and violence with something positive like the winning game.  Ginny also wanted to see Carly’s work recovered. Carly had an opportunity to shine, and Ginny did not want to see her lose her chance. She was disappointed that Carly had not been more careful with the camera.  If only the memory card would turn up undamaged. 

“We were all stunned by Mr. Miller’s presentation,” Anna said as she located the picture of Sophie Miller. “How are we going the get this photo on the website? It wasn’t taken with a digital camera back then.”

“We’ll scan it in, Anna. I’ll show you how.” Ginny replied. Placing the yearbook on the scanner, Ginny recalled seeing Sophie Miller in the hallways of Holy Cross years ago. Sophie had not been in any of her classes, but she was just like the girls Ginny taught, full of promise and high spirits.  Happy one day, stressed out the next. Sophie’s father had not been back to Holy Cross in eleven years, since the day of Sophie’s graduation ceremony. Giselle Montague had invited him back to talk to the seniors about the dangers of date rape and violence. In his PowerPoint presentation, he displayed beautiful pictures of his daughter, some that were taken right at Holy Cross. Sophie had just graduated from Villanova, seven years ago, when a boyfriend she had met working in a restaurant in Philadelphia murdered her. He had stabbed her fifty-five times. During the past few years, Mr. Miller had started speaking to teenage girls about the warning signs of a potentially violent boyfriend. Sophie’s boyfriend had been a controlling guy who tried to separate Sophie from her friends. He wanted to know where Sophie was and kept tabs on her by frequently texting and calling her on her cell phone. One of the last text messages Sophie sent to a friend raised the question that still haunts her family. Why did her boyfriend insist on control over her comings and goings? Sophie had decided to break up with him, and she made the mistake of doing it in person. Mr. Miller advised the seniors to break up with controlling boyfriends over the phone and then to immediately surround themselves with friends and family.

    “I had a boyfriend who was too controlling for me last year,” Emma said. “When he would text me, he even asked me to send photos of where I was at. He acted like he didn’t trust me, and like I wasn’t good enough for him. But he always called me every day and wanted to talk. I’m so glad Ethan decided to go to college in another state and that he’s out of my life now. Once in a while he makes a comment on Facebook, but I ignore it.” 

During the break time following second block Carly entered the classroom and plopped her backpack on the floor. She slid into a chair and started to log onto the computer.

Ginny walked over to where Carly was sitting and took a deep breath.

“Hi, Mrs. King,” Carly looked up.

“Carly, the memory card that was in the camera I loaned you is missing,” Ginny informed her coolly.

“You’re kidding,” Carly’s mouth dropped. She pushed her chair away from the computer and stared at Ginny. With a puzzled look, Carly shook her head and moaned, “Tell me it isn’t true.”

“I’m sorry to say that it most definitely is true,” Ginny assured her.

“I can’t believe it.” Carly was dumbfounded. “But this is just my luck. Nothing turns out right for me,” she lamented.

 “Tell me everything that happened the afternoon you took the pictures at the game,” Ginny probed. She wished Carly would save the drama for another day. She was in no mood for it now.

 “After the game I met my friends at the Red Robin across the street. I showed the pictures I took to all of them,” Carly explained, as her furrowed brow and trembling lips displayed her anxiety. “I had a great shot of Katie scoring the winning points.”

“Would you say that the camera was in plain sight the entire time that you and your friends were passing it around the table?” Ginny inquired.

“Yeah, I think so,” Carly replied as she tried to recall exactly what had happened at Red Robin. “I mean we were looking at the pictures together.”

“Did you leave the table at all while your friends were looking at the pictures?” Ginny focused on gathering the facts as she concealed her increasing annoyance with Carly’s nonchalant handling of the camera.

 “Well I had to arrange for a ride home, so I left the table to speak to someone who might be able to give me a ride,” Carly remembered. “You did ask me to cover the basketball game at the last minute, and I had to make arrangements to get home,” she added defensively.  

“Do you think someone at your table might have taken the memory card?” Ginny pressed on. 

Carly was reluctant to provide any information about her friends, but she did say, “Sam might have been jealous of the picture I took of Katie.” The whole situation made her feel sick.

Later that day, Ginny was chewing on a celery stick when Heather Harrison walked into the faculty lunch room. Most of the teachers had returned to their classrooms, so Ginny and Heather were alone.

“Hi, how’s it going?” Ginny put her celery down and wiped her mouth with her napkin.

“Can’t complain too much,” Heather replied and placed a stack of ungraded papers on the table. She opened the refrigerator freezer and filled her mug with ice. 

I heard that you’re missing a test, and you think it might have been stolen,” Ginny was determined to learn more about the incident that occurred in Heather’s class.

“It looks suspicious, but I might have misplaced the test” Heather admitted. “When I was returning unit tests back to my first block class, I didn’t have Erin O’Hara’s with the set. She’s one of my best students.  She asked, ‘Where is my test, Mrs. Harrison?’ and I told her that I must have placed it with the other class’s work. But the other class really hasn’t been tested on that material yet.”

“Where do you usually keep the tests?” asked Ginny.

“When I’m in a hurry, and to keep them in a convenient place, I usually place them in a handy desk drawer. But in light of the rumors I’ve heard lately, I’ll start keeping them under lock and key,” Heather looked down and poured iced tea into her mug. “I have looked everywhere for that test, Ginny, and I can’t imagine where it is.”

“Well, it looks like you will need a good alternative for your other section,” Ginny glanced at her watch, realized she needed to meet a student in two minutes, and headed out the door. At least Heather can resolve her problem with another test, Ginny thought.

After Katelyn drove her home from school, Ginny relaxed for a few moments before checking her email messages. When she went into the family room to use the computer, Katelyn was already there, logged onto Facebook. Normally, her daughter would quickly switch to another site the moment she came near the computer, but Katelyn was busily inspecting photos and she didn’t hear her mother enter the room. 

“Anything new and interesting there?” Ginny inquired.

Katelyn smiled and said, “I was tagged in a few pictures. Would you like to take a look?”

“Sure would,” Ginny looked over her shoulder and her eyes widened. Nice shot if I say so myself, she thought.

The next morning, Ginny’s first photojournalism class started after break time. Some of the students had entered the classroom and were casually discussing their plans for spring vacation as they logged onto their computers. Giselle quietly walked across the room to Ginny.

“I’m here at your request,” she almost whispered as she placed her tote bag by the desk.

“I knew I could count on you. Thanks for watching this class,” Ginny replied. Ginny paced over to the doorway and waited to intercept one student in particular before class began.

  As Lauren approached the door, Ginny caught her eyes and stated matter-of-factly, “Lauren, we need to talk in Mrs. Candiotti’s office.” They walked down the staircase in abject silence. Lauren’s hands clutched the books she was carrying while Ginny deliberately quickened the pace behind her. A passerby stole a glance and then averted her eyes as Ginny and Lauren entered the disciplinarian’s office. Mrs. Candiotti, who was sitting behind her desk sipping coffee, rose and closed the door.

“Lauren, Mrs. King has brought you to my office because a memory card is missing from a school camera, and we think you may be able to help up locate it.” Shirley began.

“I heard Carly say that a memory card was missing,” Lauren responded sullenly. “But I don’t know anything about it.”

Ginny looked squarely at Lauren, whose eyes darted towards the door. “Lauren, did you see the pictures Carly took at the basketball game?”

“Briefly. She was showing them to a lot of people at Red Robin right after the game.” Lauren retorted. “Sam was really jealous of the picture of Katie. Maybe you should question her and leave me alone.”

“Lauren, could you tell us what you remember about the pictures you saw?” asked Ginny.

“She took a bunch of pictures. Some were good and some weren’t. What’s your point? I don’t have a photographic memory. Some of my friends were in the pictures. Maybe they didn’t like the way they looked. Carly isn’t the greatest photographer,” Lauren stated as she flipped her hair over her shoulder.  “I doubt that we really could’ve used the pictures on the school website anyway.”

Ginny sat down at Shirley’s computer and proceeded to log onto Facebook. She brought up a photo that her daughter Katelyn, her Facebook “friend,” was tagged in.

 “Lauren, I recognize this photo as one that I took myself at the Support the Troops service project at BWI Thurgood Marshall last week. A group of us were there to greet soldiers as they reentered the states. I didn’t choose to place this particular photo on the school website, but here it is on Facebook, and you’re in the picture, too. Front and center.” Ginny glared at Lauren.

“Really, Mrs. King. I don’t even know your daughter. Anyone in that picture could’ve placed that on Facebook. Someone else from our class must have uploaded the picture and tagged your daughter,” Lauren argued.

“But the digital trail leads back to you, Lauren. You posted the picture and tagged Anna and Meg. You’ve been hanging around with them in photojournalism class. Maybe you weren’t aware that Meg and Katelyn both run track and are pretty good friends. Meg tagged Katelyn in the photo. It’s really not that hard to see that you did post the picture, and you found it on my memory card,” Ginny claimed.

“Why did you take the memory card, Lauren?” Shirley interjected.  

Tears were forming in the eyes of the senior.

“I had to prevent Carly from featuring the picture of Katie scoring at the basketball game,” Lauren admitted. “Me and Jacob were in that picture together. Even though he is Sam’s brother and I practically just met him, my boyfriend would never understand if he saw it online. If my jealous boyfriend ever saw that picture, he’d make my life miserable!” Lauren sobbed. “When I listened to Mr. Miller’s story about his daughter, I realized that Aaron was too controlling. He has spent so much time texting me. I can hardly stand it.”

            Mrs. Candiotti still had Lauren’s cell phone in her desk because neither of her parents had picked it up yet.  She took it out now and handed it to Lauren who brought up her list of missed calls.

            “Just look at all of the text messages he sent today,” Lauren cried. “He’s driving me crazy.”  Evidently, Aaron had been texting Lauren several times a day over the past few weeks.

“He has been making your life miserable,” responded Ginny, handing Lauren a Kleenex tissue. “You need to get away from him, and we need the memory card back.”

“I’ve tried, but it’s not that easy,” Lauren whimpered. Two months to the day, Lauren had met Aaron during play practice at Mt. St. Joe. Although she had been flattered by his attention at first, more and more frequently she resented accounting for her whereabouts to him. Now that Mrs. King and Mrs. Candiotti were aware of the social pressure Lauren had been feeling, she felt the weight of it lift off her chest.

Ginny placed her arm around Lauren’s shoulders and assured her, “Take it easy. Lauren.” 

Lauren dabbed her eyes with a tissue and sighed. She reached for her backpack and withdrew the memory card from it. She handed it to Ginny and looked down at the floor.

“Come on, let’s see if we can crop that picture and use it with the basketball story.” Ginny was optimistic. “You can help me with it.”

“Really?” Lauren brightened up.

“It won’t hurt to take a look and try,” Ginny felt determined to salvage some part of the photo for Lauren, Carly, and Katie.

 As she was packing up her tote bag at the end of the school day, Ginny heard footsteps outside her classroom door. Heather popped her head inside and smiled.

“The mystery has been solved,” Heather danced around the room.

“Yeah, but I don’t see why you’re celebrating,” Ginny raised her eyebrow, still dwelling on the events of the day.

“Erin, you know, the student who claimed I didn’t give her test back to her, stopped by a few moments ago. She told me she had found her test in her folder.  She knew I had been looking for it, and she didn’t want me to worry about it. It seems that when she stopped by to make up a quiz right before class, the other day, I gave her test back to her before I handed them to the class. Neither one of us remembered it!” Heather was relieved.

Heather, oblivious to the memory card mystery, made Ginny laugh out loud.

 “I’m glad you could solve that one on your own, Heather,” Ginny smiled.

“It’s such a relief to me. I’d hate to think that my students were rummaging through the drawers of my desk,” Heather admitted.

“Well, chalk that one up to sleep deprivation,” retorted Ginny, as she escorted Heather out, turned off the light, and locked the door of the photojournalism classroom.


Works Cited

“Picture Quotes.” Xplore Inc, 2012. 11 April. 2012.

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