For the last several months, I’ve been on a travel binge. Growing up, my mom always told me she hopes I dance. (Yes, she’s referencing the Lee Ann Womack song). So I like to say I’ve been dancing. Figuratively, obviously. No one wants to see me actually dancing.
Several of my trips have been planned—Copenhagen and Holland—but others have been friends inviting me and me saying, “Oh, I’ll see,” “I can’t afford that,” “I really should do my dissertation,” etc. But then, six days before (or less), I realize life is about experiences and moments and “I guess I’ll buy those bus tickets to New York City.”
(My bank account doesn’t call any of this traveling dancing either. It calls it spending money, but that’s neither here nor there. Amirite?)
In all this, I have taken up a propensity for photographing my experiences. Now, I fell in love with Instagram about a year and a half ago. Aka photography. (Instagram is what the millennial calls photography in 2016.) And I have no qualms about this. If you sift through my Instagram feed (which you should, and like all the photos, and then follow me *wink face*), you will see I post lots of photos of my travels. And of Richmond.
I often make the joke to friends, “Did it even happen if you didn’t post it?” Or I’ll tell people I’m going to do something for the Instagram. On the latter, that’s absolutely true. For example, last Friday my friend invited me to ride with her to the country (she had to pick up a race packet at some plantation), and I hopped up and down, so excited to document the bucolic scenery. But I don’t think I’m a lesser person for seeking out aesthetics. That is something I take delight in.
However, there is a growing movement where we label (usually) millennials’ experiences less authentic if one photographs, tweets, or checks in. And let me stop here: this blog post is not shade at anyone who thinks that. After all, we are the generation married to our data plans; sometimes we should take a break, and it’s even truer that we should not gauge our experiences and happiness on our peers’ likes and favorites. If you are doing these things for others’ approval, then perhaps reconsider.
This is about photography. I wholly recommend not checking your email (except every couple of days, because otherwise, it’s overwhelming to return to); not scrolling Twitter every hour; and disengaging from your data plans at some points in life. I’ll leave it to you if you want to disengage during vacation. Maybe that’s not your idea of vacation. But disengage at some point.
But if you enjoy taking photos of your surroundings and your experiences, then f*ck yes, do you. It is your vacation. It is your life. It is your Instagram feed. Do what you want.
I generally eye roll at those who say, “Do you” (and I am eye rolling at myself, seeking some other synonymous phrase, but I’m at a loss). But this is one thing where I’ve decided I feel strongly. Maybe it’s because I’ve become the doer. When abroad, I posted 12 to 16 photos a day (generally filtered, let’s be real), and I felt bad for my inundated followers. But I wasn’t doing it for the likes. I wasn’t doing it for new followers. (I actually lost followers, #lol #whoops). I was doing it because I enjoy taking photos, editing them, and sharing them. And I’m sharing them (mostly) for myself. I looked forward to taking my hundreds of photos and then scouring them in a café a couple of hours later and choosing my favorites.
Of course, I could not share them publicly—but at some point I have to post them via Instagram to apply the filters I want. And why should I delete them afterward? No one is required to follow me or like my photos.
Similarly, I could have traveled to all my places and not taken photos. (But then I wouldn’t have expanded the locations on my Instagram map *screaming emoji*). And I would have enjoyed myself. I don’t think there’s much that could have taken away my pleasure and awe at strolling through Delft in the Netherlands or biking the Holland countryside, camera or no camera. I would have those memories. But I still have those memories, even with my photos. And my photos are what I scroll through while lying in bed on gray days or when I’m seeking inspiration while chained to my work desk. My photos are also the backgrounds to my phone. Memories dull. They are not perfect. The edges blur. Photos are the shortcut to recalling. Especially in 50 years.
We don’t question couples who hire wedding photographers to preserve those memories. We also should remember it’s okay and not always superficial if someone is taking and sharing photos. And also, just as it’s okay to elope with no photos, it’s okay to not take photos.
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