Photo Analysis of Leonard Bernstein and Two Girls at School

Leonard Bernstein from his Westmount High School Yearbook, (age 16) 1951. (Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library).


From a superficial look there are two girls and one boy, trying to sit properly.

But upon closer look, we see more;

The girl’s looks almost as a reflection of each other, this is called: mirroring,: 

Mirroring - Janice Bastani CoachingThis mirroring might mean that they are either very close to each other (emotionally) or they are in the same state of mind.  What is also inserting is their seat place; they both sit on the sides (less important, marginal, less of a central figure, such as Leonard). They are seated in a posture which was preserved exclusively for girls and women (only few dozen years back, meaning: Because they are so narrow physically -they are taking as little territorial space as possible. “I am not intruding, I am hardly here, for I make myself as small as possible and by that, appear insignificant”. The smaller is the territory one takes for himself – the less dominant and full of presence-  he is, often it is a sign of a low status person. Both hands meet in clasping palms, on their hips, this is very typical for women at the beginning of the 20th century. These palms are hiding/blocking the sight of their genitals. Which was supposed to portray: sexual modesty.

One Girl is with closed mouth (“I have nothing to say” or: “I don’t wish to speak”). The other girl is more open and participating, for her mouth is open, but both her facial expressions are serious, just like any good obeying girls (at the time) should do.

Now to Leonard, who is completely different to theirs. First of all he is totally open: both his hands, feet and his facial expression – are open. he is taking to himself much space, when his elbows are blocked from further expansion, by the hands of the girls (who are contracted anyway). He is balanced and totally symmetrical, showing inner stability and inner harmony. He sits in a ‘power position’; The fingers of his both palms are widely spread, and they are put on the legs in a position of almost bouncing forward, showing by that a powerful, territorial, balanced and harmonious (by the symmetry), no wonder that he reached so high.

Now to his legs; they are wide open, and the hands are on the sides, not blocking the body. What is interesting is the position of his lower torso, in relation to the girls, what is very exposed are his genitals, his jacket is raised, as if to expose further the genitals. Very macho, very sexual, and in an extroverted way.

Now to his face: is full of the ‘joy of life’, an open, confident smile. It is a real smile, by his narrow eyes, which happens when the smile is genuine.

On the whole it is quite a macho picture; the girls are timid and closed (well behaved), and Leonard is the confident, dominant male, taking the central position, full of confidence and the joy of life.







Gabriel Raam

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