ceci negron, scowling yearbook, scowling little girl, scowling viral photo, CNN, ABC, Cosmopolitan, Boston.com

The Story of Ceci’s Adorable Yearbook Photo

Who knows how or why something goes viral on the Internet? I can assure you that if businesses knew that secret recipe there would be a lot more viral videos from McDonald’s and Walmart. But there’s still quite a bit of mystery involved. I guess that’s kind of the point. It’s mostly organic, at least in the beginning, and based in some kind of collective, cultural sentiment that you can’t quite put your finger on.

Well, it happened to us recently. Not on a “Damn, Daniel” or Grumpy Cat scale. You won’t be seeing us on Ellen’s couch any time soon (fingers crossed… Ellen, why won’t you call?). But a photo we took has been blasted across websites around the world. And it happened in the most random way.

ceci negron, scowling yearbook, scowling little girl, scowling viral photo, CNN, ABC, Cosmopolitan, Boston.com

Our kids go to this awesome school. It’s a free democratic school and there are no classrooms, no curriculum, no grades and no tests. The school is run by a school meeting where staff and students, ranging in age from 4-18, have an equal voice. It’s an amazing place where free-range kids learn to be confident, trustworthy members of their community and are free to find their interests and passions. We love it.

Our daughter was on the yearbook committee this past school year. Most years the committee compiles candid shots taken throughout the year and each kid can choose which photos to arrange in their blank yearbook. But this year the committee decided to do something different. They wanted to do their own take on the traditional yearbook. The word “cheesy” came up a lot.

Our daughter asked us to volunteer our services and we were all for it. We spent three separate days at the school taking “school pictures” of any kids who wanted to be involved. It was a great chance for us to meet more of the kids beyond our son’s and daughter’s friend groups. And these are some great kids!

In the spirit of the school we told each kid that they could do whatever they wanted for the photo. A few kids dressed up. Some wanted group shots with their friends. One kid brought his WWE replica championship belt. There were dolls and stuffed animals and masks. And one girl even had her photo taken with a treasured framed family photo. How meta. What started out as an idea for cheesy, super traditional yearbook photos ended up being real representatives of who these kids are.

Enter Ceci. She’s an adorable five year old who dressed up in a pretty red dress and came in with a group of little girls. She was a bit shy and hesitant at first. When she sat down on the stool she seemed quite nervous. Felix told her she didn’t have to smile if she didn’t want to. He suggested she could make any face, even an angry face. So she did. After that she seemed to loosen up a bit and we got several great shots.

As she jumped off the stool, she fell a little. This happened to be at the same time Felix was showing the yearbook committee the great shots we had gotten of her. They were laughing a bit at the cute faces she had made and she thought they were laughing at her falling. There were a few tears but a trusted staff member was there to console her and explain the situation and she went on her way with her friends.

ceci negron, scowling yearbook, scowling little girl, scowling viral photo, CNN, ABC, Cosmopolitan, Boston.com
ceci negron, scowling yearbook, scowling little girl, scowling viral photo, CNN, ABC, Cosmopolitan, Boston.com

When it came time to layout the yearbook for printing, the committee chose which shots to use. They wanted the yearbook to be unique and to capture the student’s personalities. When it came to Ceci they chose the angry face. It is pretty freaking adorable. The yearbooks arrived on the last day of school and summer break was upon us.

A few days later we received a curious email from an online news outlet asking us for permission to use the photo of the pouting Ceci. We told them they had our permission but would need to get her parent’s permission and put them in touch with the school. Strangely enough, Ceci had not even picked up her yearbook yet and so her parents hadn’t even seen the photo yet.

That evening the whole thing just blew up. We were receiving emails and lots of phone calls from more news outlets including CNN, local tv stations, Cosmopolitan and Mashable. The original story that was circulated was not quite accurate as it was the account of five year old Ceci herself as filtered through the online version of that old kids’ game Telephone. Cosmopolitan actually made the effort to get the story straight by contacting all of us.

It’s really crazy how this thing happened. A five year old made a funny face and it became international “news.” We’ve seen it posted on sites in languages we don’t even recognize. The Internet can be a strange and wonderful place.

On this page are a few more images of Ceci as well as some of the other kids at the school.

–sara

FELIX RUST PHOTOGRAPHERS | MASSACHUSETTS USA | 617.515.0128 | FELIX@FELIXRUST.COM