Looking at this Polaroid picture of a Paris metro sign, I remember many things. The walk that morning a few years back. The stairs just a few feet away that led to the subway and the subsequent long trip north. Many things. What I like the most about it is that the photo itself isn’t an exceptional photo. The light is decent, but the framing could better. It’s a snapshot taken to help me remember the moment. Nothing more. And at that task, it succeeds exceptionally.
I sometimes wonder if many of us, myself included, don’t get too caught up in fighting for the perception of originality over the beauty of the true. We seem more concerned with the delivery of a unique moment to be digested and diluted by others, than with capturing purely personal moments. Do you remember how Americans used to laugh at Japanese tourists for always viewing the world through a camera? Well, that’s nearly all of us now. We’re even worse, as we not only lose the moment, but we obliterate it by stopping to edit, describe and share what has already become a fractured memory. We then mask that memory with filters that fake the nostalgia of eras long past. It’s not attractive, it seems, to live in the present. Our lives are only worth a ‘like’ and the ensuing hit of self-worth if we succeed at publicly distancing ourselves from ourselves.
And so, I find myself appreciating more and more analog snapshots. Real world film artifacts that can only tell truths. Nearly any old family photo album fascinates me far more than any Instagram stream. Subjects tend be more relaxed, less self aware; moments are frozen rather than staged. A photo of a kid on a tricycle is just that, a photo of a kid on a tricycle. A sign is just a sign.
Yes, I’m aware that to some I sound like a cranky old man, rhapsodizing about the good old days. I’m young as fuck, bitches. The ones who are not long for this world are those who are utterly out of touch with it, powerfully obsessed with crafting and enhancing a digital world they literally cannot touch. Deprived of their senses, they’re lost in a small loop of curated moments. They can longer feel, hear or see the feedback that the world provides to all of its inhabitants; feedback that ensures survival. They are well and truly doomed.
Fortunately, these senseless automatons will soon be no more than outmoded worshippers of yet another false god (I will hereby dub that god Keanu Kurzweil, God of the Techno Optimists). Their successors and betters are those who prefer the tactile feel and sensual completeness of an old photograph to the inhuman remoteness of a virtual reality headset. These people are my tribe and your future. It’s not too late to (re)join our cult.