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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Perspective: The tragedy of the Class of 2024 photo

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You know it, you hate it, the Class of 2024 Photo.

Author’s note: I’m telling this story because I think with the passage of time, it’s only gotten funnier. I’m not naming any names, implying that anyone is bad at their jobs or assigning blame. The past is the past and everyone involved at least appeared to be trying their best. It was a really tough situation and the photo should’ve just been rescheduled. Everyone was super stressed and the whole thing was just bad. 

As many of you know, the Class of 2026 recently took their class photo on Kyle Field. Almost as soon as it was posted, comparisons were immediately drawn to the Class of 2024 photo, taken in August 2021. At first, I had a laugh and went to search for the photo online, and to my great surprise, the only place I could find it was on a change.org petition and a Reddit post linking to the petition. It would seem that Texas A&M is as ashamed as I am of the monstrosity that we created.

That’s right. ‘We.’ 

But, as a member of A&M’s paper of record, I feel a disaster as infamous as the Class of 2024 photo should be cemented in history. So, I am breaking my silence. I am a whistleblower, and it’s time the truth came out.

Twelve months ago, I was preparing for my very first coverage assignment as a photographer for The Battalion. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I brought my little camera — a kit Nikon D5500, something your high school yearbook probably had — but I was prepared to take photos of sophomores who, being admitted in the midst of a global pandemic, had been deprived of their class photo as fish the year before. I would just take a few photos of smiling students as they engaged in a decades-old Aggie tradition — a relatively easy assignment. 

But boy was I wrong.

I was excited. I had never been on the track of Kyle Field, and since I went to Texas A&M Universty at Galveston my freshman year, I’m not actually in my class photo. Plus, if you’ve never worn  a media credential before, you should really try it, it makes you feel cool. All in all, my night was going pretty well.

Shortly after entering Kyle Field from the southeast tunnel, before staff were supposed to let the sophomores in, it began to rain. So, with camera equipment in hand and the urge to stay dry, I sat down inside the tunnel the Corps of Cadets enters through for Midnight Yell and just started looking at my phone.

Some time passed before the groundskeepers decided the precious Latitude 36 Bermudagrass of Kyle Field, the traditional venue for the class photo, had become too wet to walk across. If things went ahead as planned, the grass would be ruined by the thousands of students walking on and off to take the photo, and kickoff was just a few days away. It was an understandable concern, and I can’t really be mad at them for trying to do their job.

The writers I was with decided to interview and photograph students who, despite the rain, remained just outside the stadium, refusing to abandon hope that the photo will happen that night. But before we even exited the tunnel, someone from Class Councils announced that the photo would be taken inside the Hall of Champions. 

I’d never been there before, but I thought to myself, “You know what, it’s still Kyle Field, surely there is enough room inside for everyone. The photo might look a little bit different, but it’ll still turn out alright.”

So, we walked over to the Hall of Champions and were immediately greeted by stressed-out members of Student Government and Class Councils, desperately trying to figure out exactly how they were going to fit all of the sophomores in the center of the room. I felt bad, but that wasn’t my responsibility. I was there as a photojournalist, so I headed toward the elevator to reach the balcony so I could get a shot of students waiting.

I took a few photos before I was approached by someone from Marketing and Communications for the Division of Student Affairs, who proceeded to ask me what the widest lens I had in my bag was. Once I responded, she asked to use it, neglecting to ask me what brand it was to see if it was even compatible with their camera. It wasn’t. I had a Nikon camera, and they were using Canon equipment. 

This should have been my first red flag.

I walked away and saw that the student organizers were beginning to construct just a ‘2’ composed of sophomores in the center of the Hall of Champions. I couldn’t  help but think that they should be making both numbers, just like every other class photo. I went back to the event organizers, mostly students from a variety of organizations and a handful of professional staff from the university, and asked them, “Hey, what’s the plan?”

They told me that they were going to make a ‘2’ first and then a ‘4’ in the same spot afterward. Two separate numbers from two separate photos, which they intended to stitch together in Photoshop after-the-fact.

Now, in their defense, the class photos in Kyle Field take hours of planning and extreme precision and coordination from both the person operating the camera up high and the people marking it out on the field below. That plan was scrapped and they had to come up with a new plan in about 45 minutes. Everyone was trying their best, but it was a pretty difficult task. Regardless, they were determined to get a photo tonight, no matter what.

This should have been my second red flag.

It was around this time that I felt bad for everyone involved and naively offered to help. I tried to explain that if they were seeking to create a composite photo — like how most high school class photos are taken, where multiple shots of different sections of the crowd are stitched together to create a panorama in Photoshop — they needed to put the ‘2’ on one side of the room and a ‘4’ on the other. Most importantly, the camera needs to stay relatively still, preferably on a tripod. 

You see, the thing about people who don’t know how to use Photoshop, is they don’t know what the limits of Photoshop are. They think anything is possible, no matter who is using it or the time restraints applied. As it would happen, I was the only person there who knew how to use Photoshop, but I’m a photographer. I occasionally use it to edit my own photos and I had never taken a photo that ill-conceived before. But hey, I didn’t work for them, I just offered to help, so it wouldn’t be my problem, right?

Normally, class photos would be taken far away from the students and about 100 feet in the air, generally from the second or third deck of Kyle Field. In this instance, the person with the camera — I don’t want to insult my profession by calling them a photographer — was only on the second floor of what is essentially just a big lobby. When the person operating the camera from the Division of Student Affairs decided to take out a camera and frame-up, they finally realized how screwed they were. By the time the ‘2’ was finally assembled, it appeared as a giant mass of people from the balcony.

If you were there, you might remember that they got everyone into the ‘2’ and then there was a really long wait. That was because everyone was trying to figure out what camera they could even take the picture with. The student leaders upstairs were taking out their iPhones and setting them on 0.5 zoom to see if that would work. Ultimately though, the camera operator from the Vice President of Student Affairs office looked through their camera bag again and found a GoPro and a selfie stick.

In this dark room with terrible lighting, this is what they decide to take the photos on. Not with a DSLR camera that has the capability to gather more light through a wider lens with control over more settings through its more sophisticated sensor, but with a GoPro HERO 8.

Naturally, someone reached up with the selfie stick and accompanying GoPro to take the picture. They decided it was good enough. 

They then rearranged everyone into the ‘4,’ and I think someone gave a speech. I don’t really remember, I realized what a disaster this situation was going to be and tried to remove myself from it so that I would be free to laugh about it in the morning.

But, just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. The same woman from the Department of Student Affairs came up to me one final time. She told me that their graphic design/post-production specialist was on maternity leave and they will be unable to edit the photo. So unless someone stepped up to edit the photo tonight, the Class of 2024 would be deprived of their photo once again. There was, apparently, only one person that could put the photo together tonight.

Me.

I wish I would’ve done the smart thing and just said no. I wish I would’ve just walked away. But no, I said, “Sure, I can give it a try.”

I don’t know why I agreed to this. More importantly, I don’t know why they thought I could do it. But most importantly, I don’t know why they decided to use the absolutely terrible photo I slapped together at 2 a.m.

Especially since I know they went to bed after they got home from taking the photo and didn’t respond to the email I sent them until 10 a.m. the following morning. This means that even with a good night’s sleep, they still decided to use it.

So, to the Class of 2024, I will give you what you are owed from the people who failed to put this event together correctly in the first place, an apology: I am sorry that this happened to you. I am sorry that your first year of school was a COVID-19 year, and I am sorry that your class photo looks like shit. I tried my best, but it’s not what it should’ve been, and it’s not what y’all deserve. And if it makes you feel any better, they didn’t pay me anything for it.

I hope there are no hard feelings. I didn’t take the photo, I only tried to make it a little less terrible, but unfortunately, I couldn’t do it. If anything, I think I made it worse, and I am really disappointed in myself for not being able to rescue the photo from disaster. However, what I’m most disappointed in is that the photo has been wiped from any website or social media profile officially affiliated with Texas A&M. So, to the powers that be, until you let the Class of 2024 retake their class photo, The Battalion will serve as the home for the only actual photo of the Class of 2024.

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  • This is the original “2” that I was sent at 11:30pm on Aug. 26, 2021

  • This is the original “4” that I was sent at 11:30pm on Aug. 26, 2021

  • This is the mock up that they sent me and they just wanted me to touch it up. The original file was 26MB.

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