Tom and Kathy Barnes hold the first "friends portrait" taken in 1976....

Tom and Kathy Barnes hold the first "friends portrait" taken in 1976. A composite of photographs shows the four couples taken over the years. Credit: Tom and Kathy Barnes

The first of the photographs was shot on film and developed from a negative. Now the photos are snapped with a smartphone and posted on Facebook.

Eight Long Islanders — four married couples who have been friends during six decades — have assembled periodically to strike the same pose in images that mark their connection. 

The seeds of the friendships were planted in the 1960s, when several of the eight met during their junior high school years. All these decades later, with their own children now grown, the eight are empty nesters, and the friendships have entered a new phase.

The photographs capture the passage of time and the friends' link to one another through the ups and downs of life. 

“We are like fruit on a tree that have ripened into something sweet, you know?” said Bonnie Schinella, 71, of West Sayville, to which her husband, Eddie, 72, rhapsodized: “Like a wine gets better with age, our friendship has aged well.”

The photo tradition started in 1976, when the Schinellas and the other three couples — Mary Rose and Tom Dobbs, now of Shirley; Kathy and Tom Barnes, now of Mastic; and Linda and George Meade, now of Ronkonkoma — crammed together to pose in front of Bonnie's Nikon single-lens reflex 35mm camera. The friends were at a party at Mary Rose and Tom's house, which was then in Mastic Beach.

Bonnie set the timer and dove into the frame and landed on Tom Barnes' lap with just seconds to go before the click. The eight faces radiate youth. Everyone’s hair is dark. The fashion is unmistakably of the time.

“I look at the picture, and we marvel at how far we’ve come, and realize that’s what happens when you blink,” said Mary Rose, 68, a retired travel agent. “Life just passes on so quickly.”

This genre of then-and-now pictures is sometimes called “rephotography,” or “repeat photography.” It's arguably as old as photography itself, according to a 2015 paper by Gary McLeod, an assistant professor of visual arts at Hosei University in Tokyo. McLeod wrote that the genre's roots date to “19th century scientific practices of recording environmental change (e.g., glaciers, plant population).” It's taken on a modern gloss with celebrity culture: In 2020, People magazine published a gallery of “Celebs Who Flawlessly Recreated Their Throwback Pics,” including Kelly Ripa and her kids, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, Ariana Grande, and Will Smith.

Ordinary people, too, have gone viral for their then-and-now photos: Starting in 1982, five friends who posed for the same photo on a deck railing at a lake along the California-Oregon border wound up in a German museum's exhibition on friendship, in Costco’s magazine and beyond. The five friends are all graduates of Santa Barbara High School and took the first of the photos as teens.

For the Long Island couples, their connections began forming during their youth on Long Island. The Toms became roommates in Islip as twentysomethings. Others came into the picture, so to speak, in high school or through dating and then marriage, and soon enough the eight found themselves together at the same social events.

Weddings, movies, dinners, camping trips, barbecues, beach clubs, bands, card games, vacations. Sometimes it would be all eight getting together, sometimes just two or three of the couples. 

When they started having children, sometimes the couples would socialize with the kids, too. 

“You know, you’re busy with the job and raising kids and we would still see each other, but just once in a while. Now that the young kids are old kids now, and they’re out, we kind of got back together, and are hanging out together,” said Eddie Schinella, a retired truck driver for the Long Island Rail Road.

The first photograph was taken at the party on a whim, said Tom Barnes, 72, a retired sales manager of chips and cookies.

“When we started the first one, we had no idea we were gonna continue,” he said, “and no idea we were gonna live that long.”

Decades passed until the next round of shots started to be taken.

“I know I had a head of hair then,” Eddie Schinella said. “I do not have a head of hair now.”

Except for a recent photo taken at a steakhouse in Medford — Kathy Barnes had surprised the group by telling each couple separately that it would just be four for dinner — most of the photos were taken in their living rooms.

George Meade, 73, a retired welder, sees the photos and thinks: “What the heck happened to us?”

His wife, Linda, a retired school bus driver, jokes, “We laugh, every time we take the picture, whosever house we’re in, we’re like, 'We need a bigger couch!’ ”

Even as the friends drifted together and apart and back together, Kathy Barnes, 72, said, the friendship feels as fresh as when the group piled into the frame for that first shot in Mastic Beach.

“We try to get together once a year, sometimes it doesn’t work out. And it goes a couple years to try to get all eight of us together. You know, vacations, grandkids, going here, going there,” she said.

The friends have supported one another through good times and not-so-good times. Tom Barnes had a stroke in 2019. Mary Rose has had cancer on and off for 26 years. 

The eight friends can talk about anything but don't talk about everything: politics — that’s a topic the group avoids.

“We’re split. Four are conservative. Three are more liberal. And one is somewhere in between,” Bonnie Schinella said, adding: “We all agree that we’re more than our political views. That’s what keeps us together. It’s not about politics. It’s about all the things that do matter.”

The first of the photographs was shot on film and developed from a negative. Now the photos are snapped with a smartphone and posted on Facebook.

Eight Long Islanders — four married couples who have been friends during six decades — have assembled periodically to strike the same pose in images that mark their connection. 

The seeds of the friendships were planted in the 1960s, when several of the eight met during their junior high school years. All these decades later, with their own children now grown, the eight are empty nesters, and the friendships have entered a new phase.

The photographs capture the passage of time and the friends' link to one another through the ups and downs of life. 

“We are like fruit on a tree that have ripened into something sweet, you know?” said Bonnie Schinella, 71, of West Sayville, to which her husband, Eddie, 72, rhapsodized: “Like a wine gets better with age, our friendship has aged well.”

The photo tradition started in 1976, when the Schinellas and the other three couples — Mary Rose and Tom Dobbs, now of Shirley; Kathy and Tom Barnes, now of Mastic; and Linda and George Meade, now of Ronkonkoma — crammed together to pose in front of Bonnie's Nikon single-lens reflex 35mm camera. The friends were at a party at Mary Rose and Tom's house, which was then in Mastic Beach.

Clockwise from left: Linda Meade, George Meade, Tom Barnes, Ed...

Clockwise from left: Linda Meade, George Meade, Tom Barnes, Ed Schinella, Kathy Barnes, Tom Dobbs, Mary Rose Dobbs and Bonnie Schinella in 1976. Credit: Courtesy Tom and Kathy Barnes

Bonnie set the timer and dove into the frame and landed on Tom Barnes' lap with just seconds to go before the click. The eight faces radiate youth. Everyone’s hair is dark. The fashion is unmistakably of the time.

“I look at the picture, and we marvel at how far we’ve come, and realize that’s what happens when you blink,” said Mary Rose, 68, a retired travel agent. “Life just passes on so quickly.”

This genre of then-and-now pictures is sometimes called “rephotography,” or “repeat photography.” It's arguably as old as photography itself, according to a 2015 paper by Gary McLeod, an assistant professor of visual arts at Hosei University in Tokyo. McLeod wrote that the genre's roots date to “19th century scientific practices of recording environmental change (e.g., glaciers, plant population).” It's taken on a modern gloss with celebrity culture: In 2020, People magazine published a gallery of “Celebs Who Flawlessly Recreated Their Throwback Pics,” including Kelly Ripa and her kids, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, Ariana Grande, and Will Smith.

Ordinary people, too, have gone viral for their then-and-now photos: Starting in 1982, five friends who posed for the same photo on a deck railing at a lake along the California-Oregon border wound up in a German museum's exhibition on friendship, in Costco’s magazine and beyond. The five friends are all graduates of Santa Barbara High School and took the first of the photos as teens.

For the Long Island couples, their connections began forming during their youth on Long Island. The Toms became roommates in Islip as twentysomethings. Others came into the picture, so to speak, in high school or through dating and then marriage, and soon enough the eight found themselves together at the same social events.

Clockwise from left, Linda Meade, George Meade, Tom Barnes, Ed...

Clockwise from left, Linda Meade, George Meade, Tom Barnes, Ed Schinella, Kathy Barnes, Tom Dobbs, Mary Rose Dobbs and Bonnie Schinella, bottom, in 2014. Credit: Courtesy Tom and Kathy Barnes

Weddings, movies, dinners, camping trips, barbecues, beach clubs, bands, card games, vacations. Sometimes it would be all eight getting together, sometimes just two or three of the couples. 

When they started having children, sometimes the couples would socialize with the kids, too. 

“You know, you’re busy with the job and raising kids and we would still see each other, but just once in a while. Now that the young kids are old kids now, and they’re out, we kind of got back together, and are hanging out together,” said Eddie Schinella, a retired truck driver for the Long Island Rail Road.

From left, Linda Meade, George Meade, Tom Barnes, Ed Schinella,...

From left, Linda Meade, George Meade, Tom Barnes, Ed Schinella, Kathy Barnes, Tom Dobbs, Mary Rose Dobbs and Bonnie Schinella, bottom, in 2017.

The first photograph was taken at the party on a whim, said Tom Barnes, 72, a retired sales manager of chips and cookies.

“When we started the first one, we had no idea we were gonna continue,” he said, “and no idea we were gonna live that long.”

Decades passed until the next round of shots started to be taken.

“I know I had a head of hair then,” Eddie Schinella said. “I do not have a head of hair now.”

Except for a recent photo taken at a steakhouse in Medford — Kathy Barnes had surprised the group by telling each couple separately that it would just be four for dinner — most of the photos were taken in their living rooms.

Clockwise from left: Linda Meade, George Meade, Tom Barnes, Ed...

Clockwise from left: Linda Meade, George Meade, Tom Barnes, Ed Schinella, Kathy Barnes, Tom Dobbs, Mary Rose Dobbs and Bonnie Schinella, bottom, in 2018. Credit: Courtesy Tom and Kathy Barnes

George Meade, 73, a retired welder, sees the photos and thinks: “What the heck happened to us?”

His wife, Linda, a retired school bus driver, jokes, “We laugh, every time we take the picture, whosever house we’re in, we’re like, 'We need a bigger couch!’ ”

Even as the friends drifted together and apart and back together, Kathy Barnes, 72, said, the friendship feels as fresh as when the group piled into the frame for that first shot in Mastic Beach.

“We try to get together once a year, sometimes it doesn’t work out. And it goes a couple years to try to get all eight of us together. You know, vacations, grandkids, going here, going there,” she said.

Clockwise from left: Tom Dobbs, Tom Barnes, Bonnie Schinella, Kathy...

Clockwise from left: Tom Dobbs, Tom Barnes, Bonnie Schinella, Kathy Barnes, Mary Rose Dobbs, Linda Meade, George Meade and Ed Schinella in 2021 Credit: Courtesy Tom and Kathy Barnes

The friends have supported one another through good times and not-so-good times. Tom Barnes had a stroke in 2019. Mary Rose has had cancer on and off for 26 years. 

The eight friends can talk about anything but don't talk about everything: politics — that’s a topic the group avoids.

“We’re split. Four are conservative. Three are more liberal. And one is somewhere in between,” Bonnie Schinella said, adding: “We all agree that we’re more than our political views. That’s what keeps us together. It’s not about politics. It’s about all the things that do matter.”

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