The first thing Mary-Anne Morgan did after help make some Vernon history was not sleep. Not pour herself a glass of wine.
No, 25 hours after she used her Photoshop skills to create the first Vernon Secondary School graduation class photo for posterity, Morgan and her husband, Paul, raced to their son Kevin’s VSS grad ceremony.
“I was exhausted but I wanted him to be the first one to see the finished photo,” said Morgan, who does photography as a hobby.
As Morgan wrote on her Facebook page, for more than 50 years, the graduating class of Vernon Secondary School has been photographed on the front steps of the Vernon Courthouse. For the 176 graduates of 2020, however, guidelines on social distancing and large gatherings in light of the COVID-19 pandemic threatened their place in history.
Thanks to a collaboration between longtime VSS grad class photographer Wayne Emde and Morgan, the support of local council members and law enforcement, and a little Photoshop magic, a team of volunteers worked towards a safe and successful solution.
Emde, who taught at VSS for 25 years, has photographed every graduating class since 1979.
“He was the consummate professional during the shooting,” said Morgan of Emde. “He owns that photo. He knows it. He crushes it.”
Wearing their caps and gowns on a picture-perfect Thursday, June 18, groups of 16 graduates were safely bused to the courthouse steps where they were interspersed on pre-arranged dots, laid out by Morgan’s husband, “the brain of the operation” she called him.
“We went to the courthouse three or four times, he gridded out the steps with his tape measure,” said Morgan.
Traffic was temporarily stopped on the street while Emde individually photographed each group of students. The process was repeated for each of nine groups, after which Morgan spent 25 hours carefully combining the images so the class of 2020 could stand together, one final time (though for various reasons, only 129 turned out for the photo).
The completed image was distributed to all grads, and will also join the collection of photos held by the Vernon Museum. The class of 2020 will also have its rightful place among all the grad classes hanging in the halls of VSS.
“Kulwinder Smith (from VSS) was such a force in this, as well,” said Morgan who, after clicking ‘save’ after the final image had been placed, felt sheer elation.
“We’re proud of these grads and we’re proud of how the city and everybody came together to make this happen.”