I remember when I was younger, and pictures were about the moments, not the people. They were a way to archive events, to hold on to them forever, even while you moved on.
Now pictures serve a completely different purpose. Like so much in our lives, they’re all about projection, about showing. They’re images, carefully constructed, not captured.
There was a time when the shutter went down, but the picture came days later, by which time the moment had passed and it was too late to take another version, pose in a different way, create a different impression.
That’s not the case anymore, not with the option of seeing a digital version of the picture immediately after it has been taken, creating the ability to improve upon it-change your posture, alter the lighting, smile a little more, appear better.
That’s what pictures seem to be about now-appearance.
With social media taking the spotlight, the focus is on sharing for feedback, for approval, for validation, rather than to provide a snippet of an event for people who actually care. We alter the situation while we’re in it, taking the picture keeping the response we want in mind and, with Photoshop, we continue to alter it even afterwards, so that the end result, more often than not, doesn’t reflect the reality and is only an image laboriously created to garner maximum likes and positive comments.
We now take pictures for others, not ourselves.
I’ve seen people who don’t wear the same clothes at two consecutive events because they know cameras will be there and images will be shared, I’ve seen people who make extra effort to dress well solely for the camera, I’ve seen pictures where people turn their backs to those beside them, regardless of their relationship with them, simply because they photograph better from that angle.
The way we take pictures is changing, the reason we take them is changing, the pictures themselves are changing.
I’ve seen pictures of my childhood, where I stand awkwardly beside my sisters, hands by my side. Now I see pictures of children, their right arm strategically placed on their waist, one leg sticking out in front of the other. I’ve seen pictures of my childhood, where I look funny, my nose is too big or my limbs akimbo, but I’m laughing with my sisters. Now I see pictures of little kids continuously conscious they’re being clicked, ready with well-rehearsed, camera friendly smiles. They look prettier in most of their pictures than I ever did, but I look happier.