The last couple of weeks, Decatur Daily photographers have been busy covering graduation ceremonies at high schools as well as at colleges. In the midst of all the pomp and circumstance, some students add a personal touch: They decorate their graduation caps.
I know this is nothing new, but over the 11 years that I’ve been photographing Athens State University and Calhoun Community College graduations for the Daily, I have noticed the trend has been increasing. There’s no doubt more and more graduates are jumping on the custom mortarboard wagon each year.
Probably social media has a lot to do with it. A picture of one’s cap on Instagram or Facebook inspires others to do the same and thus the practice spreads more rapidly than it did a few years back.
In fact, this trend is getting so big that there’s already an industry around it. In my naiveté, I always thought that all of those decorations were the product of the graduate’s imagination, creativity and craft. No doubt, that’s how the whole thing got started. However, as I began to see very similar patterns, sentences, colors, drawings, fonts and so on, I suspected the graduates' handiwork wasn’t always involved. To my dismay, a simple Google search yielded many results about companies that make “custom” mortarboards. Now, how can they be “custom” if they’re mass-produced?
In this collage, I have included some of the mortarboards that I photographed this year. Would you believe fewer than half of are really custom, handmade and personal?
About the series: Behind the Lens is a photo column that explores the thoughts and mechanics behind images of the community taken by Decatur Daily photojournalists. These photos resonate with the photographer, either through the story behind the shot or the image itself.
About the photographer: Jeronimo Nisa, who is originally from Spain, has been a photojournalist with The Decatur Daily since 2008. He earned a master’s degree in photojournalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He previously worked in Italy and South Africa.