Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Scars Are Souvenirs You Never Lose

No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget

Over dinner last night, I was having a conversation with my wife about a family friend. The friend, not unlike us (and you, I suspect) is fond of posting images on social media. The pictures show smiling faces, fun in the sun. A nice meal. A fantastic sunset.

People are smiling. Always smiling.

Many people today are talking as well about the scene of Academy Award-nominated actor Bradley Cooper exchanging a silent but loving look with "Lady Ga Ga", his co-star from the recent movie remake of A Star Is Born. Of course, Cooper and "Ga Ga" are professional actors, and they are paid to feign emotion. And quite skilful at it.

I remarked to my wife, people on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media project a certain idealized image of the life that they wish that they had.

This is not to say that they are not happy. It does not mean the emotion in the photos is false. But images online capture the soft light that shines into our lives. What is missing from our digital footprints is the shadows that fall on us all.

How are our actual lives stacked up against the way we want the world to see them?

Several years ago, there was a film released called One Hour Photo. For those who came of age in the era of digital photography, in the olden days (like, pre-2005), people took pictures using cameras with actual film in them. The rolls were taken to drug stores or to speciality photo printing shops to be printed. You dropped the roll of film and a couple of days later, went to retrieve the prints.

For an additional fee, you could get them back, as the title indicated, in one hour - a rush job.

I think most of the PhotoMats of my youth are long gone.

In an odd, against-type casting, Robin Williams played a character named Sy Parrish, who worked developing other people’s pictures. The movie opens with a soliloquy by Parrish:
Family photos depict smiling faces... births, weddings, holidays, children's birthday parties. People take pictures of the happy moments in their lives. Someone looking through our photo album would conclude that we had led a joyous, leisurely existence free of tragedy. No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.
I liked the movie, though it comes to rather an unhappy and surprising end. But this observation has stayed with me since then.

“No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.”

Therein lies your answer. No one is as happy as they appear in their on-line world.

That is the ugly truth of life.

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