What’s in a picture?

I’ve been thinking a lot about pictures these days. The physical act of taking a picture has completely changed. And this has changed what our pictures show and tell us about the people captured the moment the shutter clicks.

Who’s in that picture?

I’m guilty of it—knowing that I can just take another picture, means that I’m going to adjust and repose so that my face looks thinner or I look what I think is my best. Being able to hit delete and take another shot, means that each time, that picture is even more standardized and looks more and more like every other picture I’ve seen before. I’m growing older and smarter—but my pictures don’t always reflect these changes.

What’s the best shot?

More and more our idea of a good shot is based less on the people in the picture and more on what everyone else (or for some of us–Kim Kardashian or Beyoncé) are doing in their pictures. duck lips, sorority squat, charlie’s angels, gang signs, clinking glasses, cute-with-the-tongue-out, arched back with hand on hip and of course all those face filters for animals ears and noses, crazy eyes and flower crowns. A “good” picture is no longer a picture of ourselves, but a picture of what we want to imagine or manipulate ourselves to look like.

Who’s looking at the picture?

Click once, swipe a couple times and click again—that’s all it takes to show your picture to the world. And if, when your picture is being taken, you know this, how does this awareness impact what you say to the camera? “I’m having fun!” or “I have lots of friends” or “I look good”.  I miss seeing photos of people whose eyes show vulnerability, hope, wariness, joy, amusement, fear, humility and unawareness. Photos that capture true human emotion—these are the photos we all post and share. I miss seeing true emotions in a photo. We all want to be more real, more genuine; but more and more our photos rarely show anything authentic in them.

Is it art?

Above all, art is real and art is original. Each one of us has the potential to show our art—as long as we remain genuine and true to who we are. When taking a picture, many of us are trying to create art. But when Van Gogh’s Starry Night is reproduced on bags, umbrellas and key chains—it diminishes it the value of that art. In the same way if everyone is taking the same picture you are taking, then it’s definitely not art. When I look at old photos of my family I am so moved by their eyes, facial expressions and the connections they make. When I look at photos on line or on phones, they all look the same. Finding art is almost impossible because finding an original photo that shows a real emotion is so rare.

And so?

I’m going to take less pictures—I want to enjoy the moment I’m experiencing and if I decide to take a picture, I’ll take one or two. I’m going to cease posing, being aware and stop trying create my “perfect self”—because she doesn’t exist. I’m not a celebrity and neither are any of my subjects; I’m just a regular person, so my pictures should reflect that.

I’m going to post carefully and think about what emotion I want to convey with the photo I’m posting. I’m going to rejoice in old photos that remind me to be strong and comfortable with myself. I’m going to learn lessons from the eyes of those in old black and white photos and hear what they say; Life is good and bad—grow from all of it, Consider the needs of others before your own, Forgive the faults of others, Admire and encourage others and most importantly; Cherish your family and friends.

©  Elisheba Haqq

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