EVERYONE KNOWS I TAKE A MILLION PHOTOGRAPHS. My friends know this. My sisters know it. Even I find myself feeling sheepish sometimes when I whip out my phone or even camera and ask someone, “Hey, do you mind if I take a picture of you real quick?” Usually people love it, but sometimes it still feels a little awkward and I find myself asking, “Am I just doing this for Instagram? Or for Facebook? Do I only want this photo so I can write up something great about it later and get a ton of likes?”
I was having a conversation with my sister Hannah the other day and she made the comment, “It’s funny how all of us see the same world, but our Instagram feeds show you just how differently we all perceive it.”
That idea made me stop and think. IT’S SO TRUE, ISN’T IT? You have the VSCO-user version of the world, the fashion-blogger version of the world, the crappy-filters-yet-still-sometimes-cute-photos version of the world, and the versions entirely in Russian (or Spanish), that you can’t really understand but still think are really cool. We put so much effort into making our lives fit the version of the world we want to portray, that sometimes we really do find ourselves snapping photos just because they’ll look good on our feeds, or posting things just because we know people will “like” them.
I was walking with another friend the other night who made the comment that if you look at my Instagram feed, my life seems so perfect. It’s only when you read my blog that you realize it’s not. Once again, I stopped and frowned. Am I only taking pictures of beautiful things because I know it’s what will be likeable, not because it’s what will be real?
AM I FILTERING MY WORLD TO APPEAL TO THE MASSES, INSTEAD OF TELLING THE HARD, TRUE STORIES OF MY LIFE?
This morning, I was going through old SD cards of photos I’d never posted or shared anywhere, re-living memories and days and conversations. I found these pictures from a day I spent with my cousin Rena last week. She drove up to visit me from Virginia Beach and we rode into the city. It was warm and sunny and my cheeks and nose turned pink. We found a path in the woods that led to a bridge with kind graffiti scrawled everywhere and we walked across it and took pictures and felt like kids together again. We grew up side by side, and we have all the same memories. So there was something beautiful about being here, in this green place, making new memories together.
I DIDN’T TAKE A MILLION PHOTOS. Maybe just a dozen. And I didn’t go home and edit them all right away either. Most of them just sat there, waiting for the right time and the right filter to be seen.
But as I looked through them today, I wasn’t thinking about the editing style or the composition or the way I was presenting my life to the world through these pictures. Honestly, I didn’t care what anyone thought about their aestheticism. I looked at them and just saw me and Rena and the words she scribbled on the bridge and the poem we found hanging in the trees and the kid we passed running down the path. It was a good day, and now it won’t ever be forgotten. Little pieces of it have been scooped into pixels and preserved just for us, so that we can always look back and remember.
THE WORLD DOESN’T NEED FILTERS. I’m not saying that they’re bad, with their tints and colors and vintage appeal. But what this world needs even more than VSCO is honesty. It needs real, broken, honest stories. These photos aren’t important because they’re pretty. They’re important because they happened. And I think the real thing that makes everyone’s streams different is that, in spite of the fact we live in the same world and see the same things, we really do perceive it differently. We all have different scars and stories. We all feel a moment in a different way. And, at the end of the day, it’s the photos that reflect those differences that deserve the most “likes”. That deserve the most conversation. That deserve the moments that are slowed down and remembered and cherished.
Don’t just take pictures because they’re pretty.
CAPTURE MOMENTS BECAUSE THEY’RE IMPORTANT.