The faithful predicament of the modern and privileged is to live privately in public. We have created an odd balance for ourselves where the public sphere and the private sphere are in a constant intertwine. Even when we shut our eyes, wandering into a slumber, and our physical bodies rest, our digital selves stay active, constantly subject to scrutiny.
“Deleted. God I hated that picture of myself, I can’t imagine why he would put it up in the first place. Well, at least it’s gone.”
“I hope my mother doesn’t bring out the old family album. I want those ugly pre-teen pictures of me to stay hidden in the shelves of the study, where they belong.”
Pictures printed and preserved in private plastic pages, placed in pocket wallets and homes of loved ones.
Pictures posted and passed through untouchable digital portals, clicked on and picked at by people who care or plenty of people who don’t care, who may ridicule, admire or ignore a personal portrait, a precious captured point in time.
Photographs, whether preserved or discarded, provide a window into our being. Sometimes we view into the bedroom window and catch a glimpse of our most natural selves; other times, we gain sight into the bathroom and may be ashamed; most times, we see into the reception, where we welcome guests, politely and well dressed.
We delete, detag and hide digital pictures of ourselves that do not contribute to creating our intended identity image: how we wish to be perceived by our followers, friends, families and invisibles (invisibles are people who visit your profile without ever liking, following, sharing or friending you). We delete, detag and hide digital pictures of ourselves that make us feel ugly, insecure and ashamed.
As superficial as it may be, like our work and our words, photographs are a mark that we leave on this earth, and in a digital world, photographic marks are more public and more permanent. Putting a picture online is almost like getting a tattoo. Once it’s there, it’s irremovable unless you spend a lot of money to take it off or simply wait out the shame and it will fade, becoming less visible and less pertinent.
Moments of life can be captured and frozen in time, in a picture; sometimes shared with only those closest to us, other times with the public. Regardless of the effects of that frozen frame, perhaps the way we choose to see ourselves in our own portraits are the most significant perceptions of all.