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.