We were visiting with friends a few days ago, and somehow the conversation turned to the photographs that accompany obituaries in the local newspaper. We each wondered if we’d rather have our newspaper obit published with or without a picture, and if we’d prefer one that shows us old, as we are now—or young, as we were then. We all agreed how startling it can be to see an obituary photo of someone who appears to be a recent high school grad, titled with a birth year that pre-dates WWII.
Why would the deceased’s survivors select such out-of-date pictures? We speculated that perhaps the honorees hadn’t liked recent pictures of themselves or maybe they couldn’t stand to see themselves garbed in wrinkles. Maybe they loved a particular picture and didn't care how little it resembled them now. Or—and this must happen frequently—survivors simply couldn't locate a recent picture of their loved one in a timely fashion.
As one conversational topic led to another, we commented on a picture of the newly appointed president of our local university just published in the local newspaper. We wouldn’t have thought twice about the picture if a local TV channel hadn’t juxtaposed that same PR shot with its in-person interview of the new president. Live, he looked his age—sixty-one. The still photo made him appear about forty-five. We agreed about the importance of keeping publicity photos up-to-date.
And that’s something I need to make sure I tell my kids before the time comes to scrounge for my obituary picture—the whereabouts of photographs on my computer.
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