While peering back the cover of my grandparents wedding album, I wondered about my own. Would I have these classic, beautifully taken shots, or would there be an over-filtered collection on Facebook; my skin smoothed like a baby’s and my editing stealing the show?
Photography used to be saved for holidays, birthdays and special occasions in between. There was a long wait of three weeks before my parents would head to Boots for the arrival of our developed images. Never did I ponder over the thought that my hair could look messy or I might not look pretty. There was nothing but sheer delight at reminiscing over the memories.
Flash-forward to now and in a few seconds of the cameraman pressing the button to presenting me his work; I tense up in anguish. Even the terror of somebody else capturing my image on their device, worries me about what they will upload.
I wish I could feel more reckless. And I wish that my photos were more natural and charming as my grandmother’s, who appears lost in the moment as she holds on to her dress.
As a teenager, I was known for looking awkward. Everybody would say to me, “Laura you look nervous”. My friend at the time wanted us to pose in the park and I confessed to not knowing what to do with my posture. I must have been 14 when she taught me a variety of elaborate techniques. Since then, I have never quite been able to say cheese without a pose.
As years have rushed by, I have self-learnt my positions. Friends and family have laughed and criticised my ‘vanity’, wrongly informed as the correct term would have been insecurity. In the wave of my ‘acne years’, pictures would cause arguments. I would delete any where spots would make an entrance. Of course my friends were angry as they could not understand.
The modern-world gloriously celebrates a photo. You would not be impressed with a phone that holds a low pixel or one without a selfie camera. It is a rarity to find a mobile without an image app; a young person with no social-media awareness. But how many of these photos are significant? Would you be happy if every image from your Instagram was stored in an album and revisited by family in a later life?
I certainly would shudder. Glancing through my page with the pretend eyes of a stranger, I imagine the word self-absorbed. My first Instagram account could not reach the dizzying heights of 100 followers (my new account has 3.8k). I tried and tried yet to no avail. After giving up, I restarted a few years later and decided to progress my fitness journey. Copying other pages, I switched from all food photos, to mostly one’s of me.
Before I knew it, I was posting daily, robotically taking selfies and editing them with meticulous precision. I started to not think about it much; I simply find a nice or plain background, angle myself and then use this, this, or this filter. Every time I posted, more followers would join and I connected with others. It was merely a step to grow my following. Whether I loved the pictures or liked them, I did not scroll through them with fondness. Only, I did feel proud witnessing my silhouette changes.
I am certainly not against selfies. Recently I have written about them and I still promote them as a genius, digital invention for exercise and diet tracking. I am not saying that I will give them up or think wrongly of those who take them routinely. But when I scroll through, I want to smile at memories. In the midst of the beauty shots and stomach-baring, there needs to be a feeling of life. I want to say what a great photo and not what a great edit.
Instagram does not reflect my time; those closest to me say “don’t upload to Instagram”. It is a normal phenomenon to present just you and your logic.
I did decide on the other hand, to delete 200 photos. Not because I reasoned that I looked bad; more so that the deleted photos are not meaningful. I am left with pictures of makeup looks I love, my own inspirational fitness selfies that keep me going, modelling and everything alongside.
A photographer once informed me that cameras were of a far-higher quality back in the day. Likely, that is why images emerge beautifully. When I am modelling, I soak in the sense that I am appreciating the art of photography. No longer is it me against a white background, trying to figure how to flatter my features. Rather, a trained photographer brings out a character in me that I had not unearthed; they click to something that I cannot see. Perhaps I will eventually submit their work to an at-home photo album.
Ultimately, I wish to revert my fear back to excitement. To edit, but not to be caught up on it. There is an Instagram photo and then a ‘normal’ photo. I want to learn to be grateful for the normal. Below are some completely natural images taken straight from my camera.
Do you think photos have lost value? Is social-media and the pressure of editing, ruining the experience of capturing images?
Photos are of my grandparents.