When photographs were taken on rolls of film and every click of the button carried a price tag, people curated what they chose to photograph very differently. Your average old-school family album is full of images of the best times: naked toddlers wading in the shallows, birthday candles, graduations…
Now the only thing a photograph costs you is a tiny slice of the storage space on your smart phone. So we take a lot of them. And now that our phones have become our companions through thick and thin, we take photographs of intensely terrible and private things too. After all, our phones are often the only ones there to witness the sneaky lingerie we put on for a little boost of #feelingmyself confidence. They’re there when we ugly cry. Capturing our experience via photography and video has become so second nature to us, that we find ourselves reaching for our phones to immortalise the moments that people haven’t usually shared in the past.
That’s why I can dig up selfies taken in the depths of depression or just after a car crash. And the thing is, once the photograph exists, the impulse to share it bubbles up. It’s the impulse to be seen, if not by others than at least by oneself. Our Instagram galleries are places we can go to swipe through the lives and identities we’ve built. When I’ve felt the most invisible, something about the reflection in my black mirror made me feel more real.
And never is an identity in crisis quite like after a break up. When your heart is broken, there’s suddenly this urgency to be seen – seen to be thriving, or for the attentive eye, seen to be quietly suffering underneath the veneer. Each post on social media suddenly transforms into a message in a bottle, set adrift on the internet in the hopes that they will see it and not only decode it, but care.