Suzy put one hand on her hip and popped it out in a typical pre-teen pose. “Brandon, take a picture of me with the fireworks”. She looked at the picture her brother took on her phone, sighed, rolled her eyes and asked him to take another one. Again, she was not satisfied. “Grandma, will you try”? Pose, click, check, delete, pose, click, check, delete. This went on for a good twenty minutes, pretty much the entire fireworks display. I don’t think Suzy ever saw the fireworks. Neither did her grandparents; they were too busy taking her picture.
My daughter currently lives and studies in Scotland. Much of our communication is through text-messages. We may text each other several times a day or at least a few times during a week. Usually something has made us think of the other.
A Reminder of the Days Before Digital
One Saturday morning, while I was exercising, the movie Pocahontas came on. That was one of my daughter’s favorite movies when she was about four years-old. She even had a Pocahontas themed birthday party. I snapped a picture of the screen and sent it too her, along with the caption “heyup, heyup, yuppie ay, heyup”. She responded with a memory of her “rad” Pocahontas high-top sneakers. That sent me on a search.
I have boxes and boxes of organized photographs in my craft room upstairs. (One day, they will all be in albums, right?) I located the box for 1995 and looked up Katelyn’s birthday party. Aha, found it! My four year-old birthday girl in her Pocahontas short set and her rad Pocahontas high tops. I took a picture of the picture and texted it across the sea.
“Mom, I look afflicted.” She was right. Evidently she was not in the mood to have her picture taken and I caught her mid-something. We shared a good laugh.
I reminded her that the picture was taken back in the olden days before digital. If you’re anywhere close to my age, I’m sure you will remember. You had a camera, either a real one or a disposable one. There was film in the camera. When you finished the roll of film, you turned it in to be processed and you would pick up the finished product in a day or two. Now, in the really olden days, they sent the film off to a photo lab and you would get your prints in one or two weeks—double prints, of course. It was so exciting when your pictures were ready. But, in the back of your mind you always thought, “I hope these turn out”. There were no guarantees.
If there had been digital cameras when my daughter was four, I would have taken her picture over and over again until we got the proper look.
What Will They Think?
It made me wonder. What will future generations think of people who lived in the twenty-first century? If you go by photographs taken, I daresay they will think we were extremely beautiful people who always dressed immaculately, ate wonderful looking food and lived in beautiful homes. They might wonder what it was that happened between the 1990’s and the early 2000’s that suddenly everyone looked so much better.
It’s kind of like when you see old photographs taken in the 1800’s. The subjects all look so stiff and serious, no smiles allowed. I’m tempted to imagine a world of sepia-toned men, women and children walking around in their finest clothes with stern looks on their faces. That’s silly! They were just like us; they laughed, cried, pouted, flirted, got angry, and made funny faces. They were happy, sad, worried, bored like we can be. The photography simply captured the way they wanted to be portrayed.
I Did It Myself
I posted a picture of my corgi, Higgins, on Facebook the other day. (Actually, there are quite a few pictures of Higgins on my Facebook and Instagram pages.) A friend commented on what a good picture it was and that he was always smiling. I responded that he didn’t see all of the other pictures I deleted in my attempt to get the perfect one.
It may seem like I am against digital photography. Really, I’m not. It is nice to be able to see right away if someone’s eyes were closed or if they were facing the wrong direction. It’s great to be able to check the lighting. The main problem I see, other than the fact that I have over 20,000 photos on my computer, is that we seem to be skewing what our lives really look like to others.
What can we do?
Solutions To The Problem
- First of all, you don’t have to take a picture of everything. Enjoy the moments with family and friends. The image in your mind will last forever.
- Don’t try to make everything look perfect because you know it’s not. Be real, authentic. Don’t delete the picture with the baby crying or the toddler looking the wrong direction. Of course, there are times when you want everyone to be looking their best, like wedding photos or family portraits. I’m talking about the everyday stuff you see on social media.
- Finally, do preserve your memories. Consider making an album or photo book with your favorite photos. It is always fun to reminisce about old times with family and friends.
This post is for me as much as anyone else. I am guilty of the same things and will make an effort to follow my own advice. Hold me accountable.
How about you? Do you think we take and post too many photographs? Do you wonder how future generations might see us? It’s something to consider.
4 thoughts on “The Problem With Living a Picture Perfect Life”
Great post and certainly food for thought.
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So true! You’re right, we should post the not-so-perfect pics more often. That would be good for a laugh, anyway!
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I’ve often thought about those old photos (like with my grandparents when they were young), and wondered why no one smiled. It occurred to me, maybe in those days dentists couldn’t accomplish miracles with implants, so maybe lots of people had missing teeth, or their teeth were chipped or rotting so they didn’t smile. I love your take on what others will think of OUR photos in years to come–with perfect figures, perfect food, perfect clothing (so much is doctored up, I think you can even doctor up a photo using your own phone).
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