Sunday, April 13, 2014

Photos of Your Daily Life, or "Why I am an Instagram Addict"

You may have noticed that this blog is full of my personal photography. Most of it is not an attempt at "capital-A" art, but my attempt to capture a fleeting moment of my daily life that I think is neat, nifty or otherwise interesting.

My memory is like a steel sieve. I don't have clear memories of a lot of important things in my life, so there is almost nothing of the daily stuff that I can call up without having another trigger to bring it back. Smells provide the most impact, but it's not as easy to make a smell happen when I am feeling melancholy or need a quick emotional pick-me-up during a long day as a corporate cog.

(Side note: This is an interesting article from the BBC about the evolutionary link between scent and memory.)

I have photos from me as a kid, but they are mostly all holidays or costumes or other 'special' events, like this one, which is from Halloween in maybe 1983? I was a kid when "digital" didn't apply to photography and "social media" didn't exist as a concept yet. It meant film and bulky cameras and developing; even as film and processing got cheap and one-hour photo convenient once you had the photo you had to frame it, put it in an album or store it in a photo-safe container. You carried the occasional family photo in your wallet, but not photos of your favorite city sky line.

A little llama, circa 1983-ish. I was a pretty, pretty princess for Halloween

Now, I carry a Samsung Galaxy S3 which has an 8 megapixel camera and enough storage for hundreds of photos. I can share them easily, I can display them easily, I can share the little bits of my reality with the click of a button.

Flipping through the photos directories on my handheld and desktop devices is a little walk through that time in my life. I take photos of all kinds of things that I just find fascinating or interesting that might be categorized most often as "plain" or "mundane".

If Wikipedia is to be believed, I'm not alone. 87 million people use Flickr. 100 million people use Instagram. Scroll through the photos on either of those sites at random and while some of it is certainly professional photography, a significant amount of it is kids, food, clothes, scenery, animals, selfies. Mundane stuff.

People bitch endlessly about the 95 photos of their old high school friend's baby on Facebook or slam people for taking photos of their food. My suggestion, if you don't want to see it, figure out how to use filters and blocks on your social media sites. Sharing experience is a useful and worthwhile endeavor, even if it is eye-roll worthy after the 11th post in a day of the same adorable-but-not-yours baby.

We are creating a new kind of collective memory that is created by our individual narration of our daily lives. When my kid looks back on his childhood he will have a wealth of information to help him create a narrative of times in his life that he likely can no longer actively access without that record. When his generation looks back not only will they have images and personal of the most important, most tragic and most impactive moments of my generation, but they will have mundane examples of everything from food to art to fashion. Images and input at their finger tips for a time they can't remember.

I follow several people on Instagram whose post commentary I can't read because I don't speak their native tongue, but I am fascinated by the images they post of their daily lives. It's a small window into a real culture, actively being narrated to me as it happens. ( Check out @ghaidaalrotoue and @anastasia_volkova )

My favorite community on G+ right now is the Street Photographers. It's international and highly active and all photos of just people and things on the street in whatever place the artist happens to be in. I'm totally addicted.

There is the school of thought that we are spending too much time looking through the 'lens' of our phones instead of being present and in the moment and experiencing what is going on around us. It's not an argument that I entirely disagree with, but it has a flaw - a photo take a moment and leaves you with a way to remember the moment later. I strive to be present in the moment, but I also don't plan on not stopping to take a photo because that act of stopping occasionally centers me into that experience.

If you share bits of your self via social media, tell me, I want to look at all your pictures!

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