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The History of School Pictures

In the early 1920s, the photography industry was still in its infancy. Then in 1922, a young man named S. P. Barksdale started Barksdale Photography because he realized it could be lucrative to take pictures of students, sell them, and share the proceeds with the schools. Federal funding was directed to public schools for the first time that same year, leading to a boom in the public school population. Barksdale invented a camera suitable for portrait photography, hired photographers, and successfully began the tradition of taking school pictures in America. The company went through a rough patch, but still exists today under the guidance of Wayne Barksdale, S.P. Barksdale’s great-great-grandson and his wife, Susan Sheridan. School pictures started as a way for administrators to keep better records as schools rapidly expanded in the early 20th century. Today, they are a time-honored tradition that every student sits for year after year in the approximately 200,000 schools across the United States. The digital age has only strengthened school pictures by giving rise to new options like digital backgrounds and personalized photo books.

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