2/18 – Family Photos

10:1 - Family Pictures

In which a quirk of our hero’s boss is discussed and a realization about his colleagues ensues. 

Joy had two children, Anna and George, and at any point in time she always had 6 or 7 photos of them in her office.

The pictures aren’t, at first glance, all that strange. Joy never called attention to them and usually visits to Joy’s office were too brief and focused to notice the pictures at all. However, about 9 months ago, Allison Faith-Cooper had been asked to work on a long assignment with Joy and one day, when they were going over some of the work in Joy’s office, Allison noticed that Joy had changed the pictures out. It was then that Allison started to actually look at the photos and how odd they were. After that she recruited a group of them to investigate.

To summarize the findings within the slack group the weirdness of the photos can be described in three main points:

  1. Unlike most people’s kid photos, none of these pictures are of snapshots taken on vacation or during Christmas or after some school play. All the pictures in Joy’s office are professionally shot by her brother Albert (italicized to emphasize the French pronunciation) in different indeterminate locations ranging from the roof of a building to an abandoned farm. The kids, and occasionally the family dog, a dachshund by the name of Peppercorn, are then modeled in a range of serious looking poses and elaborate costumes that feel more as if they were lifted out of a fashion magazine rather than a family photo album.
  2. Each photo shoot is done seasonally and consists of somewhere between 36 and 42 photos, which are all given a chance to rotate in bimonthly throughout the quarter. Separately the pictures are just family photos, but together the pictures tell a very elaborate story worked out by Joy and Albert over the three months leading up to the next shoot. They’d learned this piece of information from Joy’s assistant Diane who told them about a conversation she’d partly overheard when Albert dropped by to discuss the Spring 2017 shoot.
  3. The strangest point about these photos is that, while nobody’s exactly sure what the stories are about, the narratives seem to be telling love stories. For example, the first one that Allison had latched on to was the story of a renaissance peasant courting a lady (Peppercorn played a horse in this one). Summer 2016 was a summer beach love story with an all too memorable black and white picture of the Anna, 12, lying beside George, 10 just where the waves break. George is looking deadpan up at the camera and Anna is looking at George with her hand out stretched out over his right nipple.

The theme for the fall seemed to be a sort of ‘Love in the Midst of Fox hunting’ thing. Gary had scheduled a bullshit meeting that day for the sole purpose of seeing the new photos and grabbing a picture of one on his phone. It was of Anna leaning with her back against a tree, while George stares out into the distance at something. Behind the tree is little Peppercorn who is supposed to be a hunting dog or something.

He had mixed feelings about this group chat. On the one hand he felt complicit in what amounts to making fun of his boss (and, even further, his boss’s kids). Everyone was very careful not to say anything overtly bad; the general tone of the group chat was more observational than mocking. Even so, there’s a snarky undertone accompanying the whole thing that’s undeniable. He felt very uneasy about the fact that at any point in time someone could take this to Joy and his name would be apart of it.

On the other hand this group was something he felt was at times cathartic and necessary. Joy had been an all around good boss, but she had a penchant for making you feel like a subordinate. She kept everyone at work at a very professional distance and rarely acted in anyway, positive or negative, that deviated from that sort of bland professionalism. Knowing this strange little quirk made her easier to work with.

The other thing was that without the group he would feel alienated from some of his colleagues. Most of them have nothing in common and only really relate over the basic fact that they work together. Having a common thing to poke fun created something for them to bond over. Between chats about the pictures there were stories about the weekend, complaints about the idiotic people they all worked with, lots and lots of gifs.

In both cases, Joy and his colleagues, what he realized about the chat was that it was the only thing that humanized his department. In the daily course of operations it was easy to lose track of someone’s humanity for their job function and their job performance. Having some sense of them as people made it easier to forgive the fact that some of them were awful at what they did or that others of them didn’t do exactly what they were supposed to. It made it easier to accept that none of these people were machines.

Image Source: Carl Friedrich Deiker via Wikimedia Commons

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