Photo policy: Just a little peek into camp life

Camera illustration
Camera Illustration by Seven Star via Etsy.

In keeping with the theme I began last week concerning packages sent to campers, that camp is a place for campers to unplug from the frantic modern world and “get away from it all,” I wanted to give you our yearly update on how we’ll be handling photo sharing at camp this summer.

Photos, too, if not kept in balance, have a tendency to rob the camper of that “getting away from it all,” vibe that is so essential to camp.

Worth a thousand words

Now don’t get me wrong — we love to capture magical moments at camp (and more prosaic ones, too), and to share them with parents!

But like so many things in America, especially after the infusion of screens and social media into every aspect of life, photographs at camp — and the expectation of daily access to them — has changed in ways that got a little out of balance.

Camp used to send no photos home until our annual yearbook came out after camp, arriving in the camper’s real, physical, house mailbox a few months later. It was treasured as a autumnal gift that brought back a flood of summer memories. And that was the way it was until early in this, the 21st century!

But some things have remained the same in spite of technology.

A tradition that hasn’t changed is that we still do send home lovely and fun 8×10-sized tent pictures that are taken on the first day of camp, as well as group photos by age group such as the Startups, Midways, and Upstarts, etc.

I still have all my tent pictures from back in the 80s when I was a young camper and I treasure pulling them out from time-to-time to tell stories of tent mates and tent happenings and to laugh and cry over all those old memories!

Your daughter can count on that tradition, too.

Not all change is good

But so much has changed in the Internet age and soon camps everywhere were posting tons of photos online, day and night, to a password-protected site for parents to access day and night.

While at first glance this might seem like a wonderful thing, it actually created a new dynamic for camp, campers, and parents.

To some camps this wasn’t an issue, especially for the more tech-forward camps and day camps.

But for a traditional camp like ours, this butted up against some long held ways of doing things.

To the extent that our camp had to focus on uploading and categorizing photos, in the not-very Internet reliable West Virginia mountains, this was an added administrative task (often executed by Sam or volunteer counselors who were trying to squeeze it in with their other work) that had the potential to cut into more important aspects of being in the camp world — the trees, birds, river, campers, and fun!

For a camper, either feeling that she always had to mug for a shot, or worse, hear in a letter from home that she looked unhappy in a picture that mom or dad had seen, created a tension that left her self-conscious in exactly the ways we seek to avoid here at camp, where who you are, not how you appear, is the real focus.

And for parents whose child is away from home, still fretting over every day’s camp activities — “Is she happy, will I see a picture of her, why isn’t she in today’s photos?” — created unnecessary anxiety at just the moment when parents should be enjoying some kid-free downtime.

Photos, after all, capture a hundredth of a second, and too much can be read into them that simply isn’t there. And with 200 girls at camp, who is or isn’t going to be in a shot is equally random in so many ways (some campers are actually quite camera shy and adamantly refuse to get in the frame!).

So, for Alleghany, in the midst of an industry-wide concern about photos, our leaning has been toward going back toward more old school ways — still including photos, especially the take-home kind, and some online access, too, but not having such a large focus be on daily photo journalism.

We want to get a bit more of the rustic, simple, “get away from it all,”  CAMP back into camp and ease up on the pace of photos a bit. (We actually began this last year, but I wanted to reintroduce the concern to you this year.)

Our photo policy

Stepping back from daily photo sharing, once again this summer, we will post pictures just three nights a week on our password protected site (your Campanion account), Internet providing, on this schedule:

  • For Mini Camp, this will be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights, by midnight.
  • For Term Camp, this will be every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights by midnight.

What’s most important

Camp Alleghany’s mission statement is: Inspiring growth through honor, loyalty, and friendship. This is our passion and our main goal when planning and executing your daughter’s summer. We think it’s also, in part, why you chose to send your daughter here.

We work hard daily to ensure she is having a positive experience and growing immensely from it. Because we focus so much on this piece, all of our staff spend a lot of hands-on time with the campers —whether through structured activities, unstructured play, teamwork, bonding, instructional time, or just enjoying being outdoors. We also focus highly on the campers’ safety and well-being at each moment of the day.

Taking pictures is very important to us, but if it takes time away from accomplishing our mission, it will take a back seat.

We are proud of our mission and strive to accomplish it each year to the best of our ability. Thank you for working with us and understanding!

Finally, as I alluded to above, our Internet access can be spotty due to our wonderful, yet rustic, location. While we’re working on improving this each summer, a simple rain storm can take away our internet for an hour or two. Knowing we have 48 hours to get our photos uploaded will hopefully ensure that the photos are there are ready for you on the schedule we have set.

We sent this (and more) information to you in a newsletter being mailed this week, so please check that as well when it arrives.

We thank you for understanding our photo practices and procedures!

— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls