“Look at this photograph. Every time I do, it makes me laugh” ~ Nickelback
Imagine a distant and ancient time when cameras were uncommon. They weren’t in everyone’s pocket. They used film rolls of which 24 shots were the normal max storage. Wouldn’t you think twice back then before taking a photo of your lunch? Or of yourself in a gym mirror? Or of yourself throwing shapes like a badass wannabe?
There’s so much disposable photography in my phone’s camera roll, I have realized. Half of the things are random memes and app screenshots. But the other half seem to be selfies. Mostly cringy selfies. For I’m not particularly photogenic, nor do I think of myself of handsome or anywhere near hot. I just have a lot of selfies for some reason. All of them deleteable.
But in my “favorites” album I have a select few photos I do treasure. Pictures of my dearest friends, family, and pets. Well-framed shots of places I’ve visited, like a fireworks-filled night sky above Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Or perhaps a bursting and blossoming rose sharply standing out against a tasteful blur of suburban greenery. These are the photos I would have taken back in the day when film rolls limited my opportunities for memories to 24 and nothing more.
But today I might spend so much time behind the phone screen that I miss the memory itself. I miss the gender reveal because I’m trying to shoot twenty shots of the couple. I miss the joy on their faces as glittery sparkles reach to the heavens. I miss the laughter and the camaraderie with friends because it’s all 2D allegedly HD screen. At least in old boxy cameras I could keep one eye on the viewfinder and one on the concurrent scene itself. On the subjects themselves. On the persons I loved. Now I’m left with memories of looking at a phone, scattered among a thousand other pictures of my selfishness. I crave now just a few pictures of realness, like these:
It might be hard for others to understand why I’m trying to recover the old feeling of the clunky camera. Even of those plastic and cardboard disposable ones we used to drop off at Walgreens would do. I want to develop away from disposability and toward intentionality. I want for the photograph to mean something to me again, so that if I do find reason to take a self-portrait, the reason is a grand one meant to last the ages like the memory I’m trying to capture itself. And hopefully, that self-portrait is more likely a photo alongside you all, my loved ones, so that when we’re old and grey, I’ll remember you as you were—all the while I still enjoy your company in whatever future memory that might be.