Pastel Rainbow of Baton Twirlers (1974)

How glorious is this stairstepped pastel rainbow of baton twirlers? Honestly, some of the faces in this photo look very familiar. We’re pretty sure at least two of these twirlers are still around, coaching and judging. If you’re in this photo let us know!

Pastel Rainbow

This is one of our all-time favorite vernacular finds to date. And, we’ve been collecting old snapshots, Polaroids, 35mm slides and arcade/photo booth images for two decades! We will briefly discuss the importance of vernacular photography later in this post.

But this photo. Truly, it is so special as it captures an era now gone forever. Watergate, Vietnam, pastel rainbow bridesmaids’ dresses, and of course, people we loved.

Speaking of love, there is so much to love about this image from the crowns on the oldest and youngest twirlers to the mid-calf socks and white tennis shoes. But, best of all is the pastel rainbow costumes with the pretty white appliques. As we shared on Instagram, it’s like 1970s bridesmaids only baton twirlers!

Some of you are too young to remember 1970s weddings with bridesmaids in pastel rainbow dresses. This trend, which in our opinion will always be fabulous, has been widely documented in memes and blog posts.

Vernacular Photography

Vernacular photography is an umbrella term for photography that is basically not professional. In other words, amateur. In 2000, Geoffrey Batchen wrote an academic essay, Vernacular Photographies, that became very popular. Here is an excerpt from the abstract along with a few other definitions from various writers:

“How can photography be restored to its own history? And how can we ensure this history will be both materially grounded and conceptually expansive, just like the medium itself? Well, perhaps we should start by considering what has…always been excluded from photography’s history: ordinary photographs, the ones made or bought (or sometimes bought and then made over) by everyday folk from 1839 until now, the photographs that preoccupy the home and the heart but rarely the museum or the academy.  rarely the museum or the academy.”

DOI Foundation / Taylor & Francis Online

Here is another definition from Swann Galleries:

Vernacular photography includes pictures by amateur makers, studio practitioners, itinerant and press photographers–many of whom were unconcerned with the medium’s fine art applications.

Swann Galleries

In terms of baton twirling, vernacular photography is very important. Grainy snapshots and 35mm videos capture the priceless, evanescent moments, those that quickly fade away with time. These include local competitions, camps and clinics that passed out of sight and disappeared from memories before they could be documented or preserved in a formal archive. In this regard, the quick and easy pictures snapped with the Brownie camera become critical evidence paramount to the recorded history of this sport.

The history of baton twirling is hard to nail down including 20th Century baton twirling. Many stories can now only be told through these informal photographs. Suffice to say, baton twirling memoirs and academic research are scarce. Although a tremendous body of knowledge is available through newspaper articles, even these began to drop off in 2000, with the rise of social media.

All that to say, treasure your old baton twirling snapshots. Even if they are torn and faded, grainy or out of focus, they bring value to the study of this sport. They are also incredibly fun to look at and they brighten everyone’s day. I mean, seriously, who can’t look at this photo and smile and be happy?

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