you still want to travel to
you could not take a camera with you.
-a question of appropriation"
-Nayyirah Waheed, Salt
There is a public, and for many an internal dialogue, regarding whether or not a photograph is an initiation or a barrier between projection and reality. What is happening in the moment of photographing, for the photographer and for the subject, is all very real. I want to affirm that whatever was happening in these moments was, in some way, present. I will even go further and say that the interpretation of the audience is real as well, though this is an affirmation only for the audience's personal and subconscious projections. Many times when we look at an image, we are looking at a projection of someone in which we also project "ourselves"--our individuality and our circumstances.
I wonder if it isn't so much the lens (camera or phone) that creates a barrier of opposition against original experience, but rather the places one goes psychologically in the event of photographing that emotionally exiles them from an instance. The lens of a phone acts as a divisive mechanism, splitting the moment into three sections: subject, lens, eye. To place a lens between us and a subject is to walk between the world of "real life" and the ether, interjecting the moment with the curating of a digital interpretation.
What is even larger, however, is the symbolic and archetypal value of the lens. Whether attached to the phone or camera, both imply for many the same place--the social media venue. The image is more than a photograph for many of us. Even images of minimal quality project another kind of image, the image of self, of ego, caricatured. To intercept a moment with a camera is in many ways, for many people, the separation of the bodily self from the moment at hand. An emotional presence with the digital world takes the place of emotional presence with "real life" and therefore the digital self, a self that is by consequence constructed, filtered, and in many ways, a projection of insecurity is demonstrated as being more valuable than the bodily experience.
Instagram and places like it are no longer solely about sharing ones life across time and place. It has become for many a branding venue of social commodification. Many photographs are taken and uploaded out of context with an audience in mind, what their perceptions might be, and how these perceptions might affirm our digital constructs. (Would we post to Instagram if no one was watching?) In this case, subjects such as the Grand Canyon, petroglyphs or St. Peter's Basilica are exploited for personal gain and appropriated. These imaged places often do not stand alone as images of themselves, but more deeply are decoyed portraits of the imager's projections of self. In these cases, the relationship between subject and photographer is often created not fundamentally upon mutual awareness of the other (inanimate or not), mutual respect, care or knowing, rather it is based and forcefully cultivated only upon the grounds of the personal gain of the imager. This capitalizes the place, the event, and ultimately the person casting such a frame as something to be instantly consumed, liked, and most likely forgotten. This creates a shift of displacement from what could be our realities and makes most immediate what has become the disposable relationships between us, our external world and our introspective places.