To get some fresh air this afternoon, I walked down a remote part of Pensacola Beach. The skies were bleak and there was a light drizzle. I didn’t go with the intention of getting in the water, I just wanted to spend some time outside. As I walked, I decided to take a few pictures and send them to my friends.
After I took the pictures, I thought about Susan Sontag’s “On Photography”. I saw myself in the pictures and thought, “wow, you’ve gained weight on your neck”. I heard Susan in the background and thought about how I use pictures for validation. Not in the sense that I want everyone to congratulate me on my life; I use pictures to validate that I exist and what I’m doing is happening. It’s strange to ponder.
With pictures, I can say, “I’m here” and “I exist”. It feels like a declaration of sorts. When I view the image, it’s like I use it to better “see” myself. Which, honestly, is laughable. Isn’t it strange how we see a flattering image of ourselves and feel better? Then, when we see a bad picture, we assume that’s how we really look and feel shame?
We assume that a camera sees reality as it actually is. We trust it better than our eyes because it remains constant. While images come and go from our eyesight, once something is captured by the camera, it remains – as though the camera has caught a piece of reality.
We feel shame at bad images of ourselves because we trust that the camera has caught a piece of reality and that piece shows us as ugly. Therefore, in reality, we’re ugly. Yet, we underestimate the subjective aspects of the camera; the lighting, the angle, the time of day, the skill of the photographer.
We assume the camera tells the truth and we forget that pictures are subjective.
When I took the pictures, I suppose I was looking for validation that what I’m doing is important and I wasn’t wasting time. I wanted to document myself and save a sliver of time. Why do I need these declarations of existence? These are just evening thoughts now I suppose.