I recently went on a holiday to the sun-soaked Greek island of Santorini. We’ll call it a working vacation since I was on bridesmaid duty for my best friend’s wedding. Needless to say, it was phenomenal. The picturesque surroundings and memorable milestones warranted countless photo opportunities.
While away, I found myself capitalizing on any opportunity for free WiFi so that I could go online to post real-time updates and digital snapshots for my friends and followers back home. Because if you don’t record it, upload it, share it and tweet it — did it even really happen? Nobody asked me about my trip when I returned; they had seen it all thanks to my jealousy-inducing stream of Instagram activity.
When I was younger, I used to pore over my mother’s photo albums filled with weathered snapshots of her on beaches and in fields looking perfectly dishevelled dressed in her 1970s hippy garb. The photos are rinsed in sepia tones, the images are grainy, the edges blurred.
Thanks to apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic, I have thousands of faux-analogue images with those same qualities but without any of the authenticity. Flaws and colour saturations that were once accidental have been applied meticulously in order to make the perfect imperfect image.
Today, our mundane realities are manipulated, elevated and given a veneer of artistry with a strategically applied “Valencia” filter. For anyone who has ever wanted to experience a false sense of nostalgia for a time before they were even born, there is indeed an app for that.
Outside the smartphone realm, Urban Outfitters has reintroduced Lomography and Holga cameras to the masses, creating an entire industry based on selling an idealized retro aesthetic to a new generation of shutterbugs. Except this time around those prints aren’t treasured keepsakes stored in leather-bound albums — they’re digitized, categorized, Tumblred and hashtagged until they become something else entirely.
All photographs are inauthentic in a way. By capturing an instant in time, the boundaries of those realities are cropped and the subjects are posed acutely aware that they are being snapped. The very act of taking photographs makes experiences staged and, in turn, less real.
While I delight in the preservation of memories, I believe in the importance of leaving the camera (and the iPhone) at home sometimes, even when you’re on vacation. We need to remind ourselves to be fully present in our unfiltered realities, enjoy the fleetingness of life and let your memories be all that you take away.