If a picture is worth 1000 words, what are 1000 pictures worth?

Can we all agree that what we really want to see on Facebook are pictures? You know, they tell a story without having to do all that tedious reading – like on a blog. I mean, it’s fine if you just want to write some cryptic message about how you’re “feeling really bummed… :(” but don’t expect me to bite. If you really need some cheering up, call a good friend or just come out with it so we don’t have to wait for people to respond, “what’s the matter, hun?” or “sending {{{hugs}}}.” That’s just silly. And won’t you feel worse if everyone is like me and no one responds? Of course I care if you’re having a bad day but, what I really logged on to see, was pictures.

We live in the digital age. Taking pictures is easy. Not only is it easy but between Instagram filters and DIY photo editing, anyone can play amateur photographer. (This is not a dig to actual professional photographers. You are still a cut above the rest of us. And it is clear when one of you has taken a photo as opposed to one of me.) But has it become too much? I have over 1,000 photos on my phone right now. Just on my phone. One thousand pictures. Part of this is because I am afraid to delete them. What if something happens and photo 583 gets lost forever? The moment will be gone. Vanished like it never happened. But now, when someone asks me what happened on April 12, 2013 at 11:32, I can look back and proudly say, “We were feeding the fish.”

IMG_2146 You see, I really do need 236 pictures of Nolan making this face.

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I mean, look at him. I can’t get enough of him either. And someday he may be in therapy and I’ll have documented proof that it’s not my fault, clearly he was a very happy baby. Pictures verify our lives. They remind us of our reality. Or do they?

Are all these digital pictures having the opposite affect? Are they warping our sense of reality? Sure we had fun playing in this sandpit but this picture erases the accidental throwing of the sand into the eyes and the dramatic tearfest that followed.IMG_2160 Who wants to remember that part? A picture does tell a story but now, more than ever, the story we are piecing together might not be that accurate. With every click, view and delete, we can write and re-write that story a thousand times. And maybe that’s ok. We have the visible evidence to convince ourselves, and others, what’s behind the lens is real and true. But this, I think, could be dangerous. It’s fine if you want to fool yourself but it’s not fair to the rest of us. It sets us up to believe that everyone else is living a WAY better life than we are. They are better mothers, have more friends, have better relationships…have you seen how much fun hose BUNCO ladies have?!

What got me thinking about all this is an article I read on CNN written by one of their travel editors who was arguing that pictures are ruining travel. Instead of just enjoying time swimming with dolphins, we’re too busy fiddling with our cameras to make sure we document our time swimming with dolphins that we don’t actually know what it was like. Ultimately, we aren’t really experiencing our adventures.

A couple of days later, I read a post from a photographer who had recently, and suddenly, lost a fellow photographer friend. She was arguing that we should go out and snap away because when our loved ones are gone, we’ll want those pictures. All 3,000 of them. (She said this much more eloquently and it made an impression.)

Am I missing my kids childhood because i’m too busy watching it from behind a camera? Have I missed out on life in Shanghai because I am looking for the perfect photo to commemorate it? Or are my 1000 pictures justified?

And then there are the professional pictures.  I see all of yours, with your kids in cute clothes and with your husbands and wives in fields at sunset…and the pictures are beautiful. And I think I should have some like that. It’s been 3 years since Hunter was born and I don’t have one professional photo of him with the perfect lighting, setting, smile…I have thousands of “a little too blurry,” “why can’t everyone look in the same direction?” and “is my house really that messy?!” photos. And somehow, I like these just as much (and may be the reason I like the security of having 1500 mediocre pictures…I don’t have a Really Good One, but at least I have all these).

Not for a single second, never, not once, have I ever thought, “I wish I Facebook existed when I went to high school and college.” Do I feel bad that my college experience is not saved on my computer in thousands of jpeg files? Not at all. Do I sometimes wish that I had a few more pictures from which to reminiss? Absolutely.

Should I be picking up my camera more or less?

The very obvious and dull conclusion I have come to is, moderation and awareness. Not all moments have to be (should be) caught on film. It’s ok if I don’t get the priceless picture because I lived the priceless moment. But there is something satisfying in getting priceless (and mundane) photos. I enjoy browsing through my mediocre pictures. But maybe I could be a little more aware of what I am photographing and why. Maybe some memories are better kept in our heads while others are better kept digitally. I’m having enough fun in my real life not to let those BUNCO babes get me down.

And as for me, I’m really not trying to make you feel bad or present some false reality…my kids really are this cute (even cuter in person).

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And seriously, if you have any ideas about clever things to do with an overabundance of photos, do share.

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3 thoughts on “If a picture is worth 1000 words, what are 1000 pictures worth?

  1. Yeah I haven’t been taking photos much at all while I’ve been in Shanghai. Which isn’t good, because I need them for my Chinese wife’s visa to my home country. Gotta pick that camera back up and get snap-happy

  2. Pingback: To New Places | Avery Adventures

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