Capturing contradictions


Sometimes, when I don’t know what to blog about, I look through old pictures and think about the memories associated with them. It almost always inspires an idea, even if what I write has nothing to do with the photo itself.

But when looking through some photos today—aside from thinking I should really do a Facebook untagging session—the thought came to me that a lot of them didn’t capture how I truly felt in that fleeting moment. It would be nearly impossible to tell from one picture that, even though I’m surrounded by a dozen or so people, smiling with a drink in my hand, I’m actually feeling a little recluse. Or how, in another, I’m masking my insecurity of being in front of a camera with a silly expression.

Think about all the unseen contradictions to real life a photo might contain. Or what a photo might mean to you taken completely out of the context it was presented within. Cameras were built to capture the truth of our surroundings. But that doesn’t mean the photos always do.

This all ties in with how we choose to represent ourselves online. How many times have we all immediately uploaded a photo we looked particularly beautiful/interesting/happy in? What this really conveys is, I want you to think I’m having a good time.

And yet, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Likewise, I don’t think Instagram—with its instant gratification, soft focus, and flattering filters—is a threat to the art of photography. Just like a solemn portrait of an old man who lived through the Holocaust can tell a story a lifetime long, the photos of our everyday moments capture things we would otherwise forget. These images are given meaning when we assign it to them.

So the hidden contradictions? I think of them as reasons to linger on a picture a little longer. To consider the people in it and their relationships to one another. To imagine the person behind it—the photographer, and his or her intention.

And when there are no contradictions, no puzzling questions to be answered, but just a raw emotion or distinct memory… it can be just as meaningful.

Remember, please vote daily for Witty Title Here in the Mobbies awards! (Under the “Best Personal Blog” and “Best Photography Blog” categories.)

Get the newsletter

Sign up to get love letters, good reads, writing deadlines & more delivered to your inbox every week!

powered by TinyLetter

And don't forget to follow WTH on Twitter, Facebook & Bloglovin'!


  1. Love this. I was looking through old photos the other day that I had stuffed in a bag under my bed (…they were that good), and was embarrassed that I once thought these were great, Facebook-worthy pics. Lots of freshman college party pics, where at the time I thought I looked like I was having a fab time, but now it’s clear I was still awkward and trying too hard with everything… drinking, outfits, friendships. Going to college at the dawn of Facebook and social media was a really odd experience.

    • No kidding! I’m still not sure if it really enriched the experience, but the early days of Facebook sure were interesting.

      On a related note, I’ve just realize that the majority of the photos here show me with a drink in my hand. Whoops.

  2. Your tag line “I’m just a girl standing in front of a guy asking, “Do you smell that?”” is hilarious. Maybe even best thing I’ve heard all week. I’ll be reading…

  3. Wow, great post. I’m going through old photos this afternoon to find some to send to a friend and I’ll be looking at them a bit closer now.
    Funny, this Saturday, I was out with my Husband and friends celebrating the closing of our local watering hole. Me and G were in the middle of an arguement, when all of a sudden my friend came over and said… “SMILE!” We quickly came together, cheek to cheek and smiled for her as she took a picture. When I saw the picture show up on FB and how nice it came out, I thought, if people only knew I was just in the middle of DEMANDING an apology!

  4. It’s interesting how pictures can change the context of a situation – or, it’s really not so much the pictures themselves as it is the way people perceive the content taking place in them. I like how you contradicted yourself in the photos, though — that was a neat idea that gave us an interesting perspective into who you really are versus what people might think your pictures say about you. I’ve had the same experience. By the way, no rush, but I would be super thrilled to get an email from you again! 😀

    • I knowz!! I am a total slacker on the email. There will be one to come soon after I meet an imposing deadline that’s coming up.

  5. I mentioned you as a deserving writer for the Liebster Award. I think you’re Blog is great… 🙂
    Hope on over to my Blog and check out the details!

  6. Thanks, Anna! 🙂

  7. I LOVE THIS POST! and I love your way with words!!!

  8. This is a gorgeous post. It’s so true that we tend to upload only the photos in which we’re looking our best, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it does make you wonder–do we all appear more beautiful/interesting/happy on the internet than we really are? Are we only the very best possible versions of ourselves on the internet because we have the ability to pick and choose which parts of us others can see?

    I’ve always loved candid photos the most, the ones that are taken when you don’t know someone is taking them. I think those are as close as we come to showing the truth in photos.

  9. What an interesting idea. I think it’s so true that whatever moment is captured may not be an accurate representation of what’s going on internally at any given moment. I can definitely think of contradictory captions for a lot of my photos 🙂 Thanks for visiting my blog, nice to “meet” you!

  10. cassie, i hadn’t really thought of it before but you’re so right – photos hold so many stories that don’t necessarily translate at first glance. i love that thought.

  11. I love taking photographs of my friends, but when it comes to me I get so awkward! For some reason, 9 times out of 10 I feel like the picture is not an accurate representation of me. Why would it be?! It’s a picture. Then I see portraits, like you mentioned, of the “solemn portrait of an old man who lived through the Holocaust” and I wonder if he feels accurately represented in that photo? He probably doesn’t care as much as I do. Maybe when you’ve seen a certain amount of life you become less afraid of actually letting the camera capture you… you can look it in the lens! Great post. Great idea 🙂

  12. Read Bundle of Global Contradiction in

Speak Your Mind