Ideal Instances

Over the last month or so, I’ve been continuing work on my found Polaroids. When I initially started, I thought the work was about connections, longing, and the notion of family. I wasn’t really grounded in this concept, because it was one of those things that made sense in my head, but in context just didn’t convey what I hoped. But, because I’m stubborn, I kept working on this piece to figure out what it was about. It was bothering me, and I needed to figure it out, so I didn’t stop. I’ve made a break-through recently. Around Polaroid #120, everything clicked.

I was making up narratives in these photographs, and I was playing along in others. I was altering and editing and censoring them. I don’t know these people. Can’t these things be said about how we present ourselves today, on social media?

It’s no secret that we fabricate our lives for the internet. Everything we put on Facebook is carefully tailored to the image of ourselves we want the world to see. Sometimes the lives we create for ourselves are the total opposite of what we really are, or what we’re really going through. Like the UPennĀ  Student who looked fine on Instagram, but was anything but. Or, the girl who pretended to go on vacation, but was actually at home. We are making up our lives.

Thing is, this phenomenon isn’t anything new. We’ve been doing this since forever, carefully picking and choosing what we wish people to know about us. We put on different masks, hide things, make things up. The Polaroids I’ve been working with have a common thread– they are photos of instances that are happy, the kind of events that warrant a camera. Birthday parties, family reunions, holidays, vacations, all of the things in life that are supposed to be joyful. This is fine, but when you flip through your old family albums, you can’t help but notice some small things. Like blank spaces in the album, or a photograph of two people who look so happy, but they actually got into a huge argument years later and they now hate each other. Or a photograph of a loved one that looks so calm, but really they were dying of cancer. Photographs don’t tell the truth. But we still believe they do.

So many of us go on social media and get depressed that everyone is having more fun than us. Spoiler alert: it’s not true. The people you are envious of aren’t posting their woes on social media, because why would they? Why would they do that when they can show the world the ideal version of themselves? We put filters on our images. We edit them and we alter the content. With my Polaroids, I’m doing the same thing. Sometimes, I’m making fun of the efforts we go through to hide ourselves. Other times, I play along with the narrative in the photo, as we oftentimes do with our friends on Facebook or Instagram. “Oh, Katie looks so happy with her new guy, even though last night she called me crying about how she missed her ex. Oh well, I’ll like this picture anyway.” And, sometimes, I hint at the more melancholy parts of life that we all deal with, but pretend don’t exist. It’s a curious phenomenon.

The other connection I made with this project is how I kept thinking of Instagram and the editing features on that application, and the relationship to the Polaroid. Y’know, the earliest “instant” image? Snap a photo, wait a minute, and see if it’s what you like. Looks bad? Re-take it. Just like with our cellphones today. “Ew! I look terrible in that one– let’s do it again!” We really haven’t changed over the decades.

So, here are the next, uh, 51 Polaroids of my piece. I have 100 more of these, but, y’know, excess and all that.

I plan on having 1000 of these fabrications by the end of the summer.

Wish me luck.

Happy Shooting!

Adventures in NYC: iPhone Edition

This weekend I ventured off to New York City to check out some graduate programs and to see my friend, Patrick, who I haven’t really seen for more than an hour in four years. I packed very lightly (I’m getting good at it,) which meant leaving my hefty cameras behind. So, I used my iPhone a lot to take photos, because this is the 21st century, and to be honest, the iPhone cameras are probably better than my DSLR.

If you saw right through me that paragraph, you’ll know that this post is really about my Snapchat documentary on my trip to the east coast. I had so much fun Snapchatting my trip to Chicago that I figured I’d do it again in NYC. Must be a selfish millennial generation thing, trying to make mundane things seem more exciting:

The thing about iPhones and apps like Snapchat is how narcissistic they are. I purposefully took these photos and made these captions to share with everyone, as if my life was interesting enough for people to care. It’s funny to me, how we create these artificial versions of ourselves to share digitally. These Snaps show that I had a great time, but what they didn’t show was all the not-so-great things in-between. Life is not always fun or glamorous or funny.

But let me knock myself off my high horse: I had no shame sharing my artificially fantastic life with people who probably didn’t care. YOLO.

NYC was really something, though. I spiffed up my not-snaps with some apps like Afterlight and BeFunky, because I’m super hip that way (and the bus ride was 13 hours so I had to do something to kill time.) Also totally threw on an instagram filter for the tree lights one. #photographer

image10 While I’m on the topic of iPhone/Smart Phone photography: people really need to calm down. There are some people who take a selfie, throw a filter on it, post it to instagram and call it photography, and for some reason people get mad about it. “But they’re not real photographers! Instagram doesn’t make you a photographer!” I can see their point, but really, who cares? Let them be creative, even if it means using the Valencia filter to look fly.

Also, there’s a thing called iPhoneography. There are artists out there who use the iPhone as their method of choice. There’s books on it, and if you’re one of the people who get easily offended with popular culture and it’s collision with creative fields, I suggest you read one of these books. It might change your mind.

You’ll also sleep better at night, having minded your own business instead of complaining about irrelevant things that make people happy without hurting anyone in the process.

So, yeah. Here is the photographic evidence of how awesome my life is. I know all of you care oh so deeply.

If you take anything away from this post, take away the knowledge that the red velvet cheesecake at Magnolia Bakery is possibly heaven sent, and everyone needs to eat it until they are in a sugar coma.

Happy Shooting!