Content. Content. Content. It’s quickly become my least favourite C-word (along with the likes of clunge, and cancer) As a blogger, my life revolves around that all-encompassing word, with the photos for my blog, the words I write, the snaps for Instagram, the captions for those snaps, and basically anything else I do is being classed ‘content’. In fairness, content is beginning to feel a little like laundry.
A contrastingly more favourable C-word, absolute major blogger hun Chloe Plumstead, recently wrote about her trip to Amsterdam and the pressure to photograph every damn thing on holiday and girl, I spent the whole post shaking my head like a nodding dog at the computer being like YAAAS.
More recently than ever I’ve been piling more and more pressure on myself to shoot everything. Look, an aesthetically pleasing plant! A piece of street art! The coincidentally heart-shaped bite I took out of my instagram-worthy bagel – magic! Ah, what a beautiful croissant!! *Snap!* A riddle: what came first, the avocado on toast or Instagram? Sorry babe I know your food is getting cold and you’re salivating like a bulldog staring at a squirrel but I haven’t got the right shot of our dinner yet.
And equally, I’ve found myself getting more and more annoyed at missed opportunities – feeling guilty that I didn’t capture a certain moment to share on my blog or social media. “Am I taking enough photos of this experience?” I’ll ask myself, whilst thrusting my lens into my boyfriends face, trying to capture an arty candid of him whilst he grins, like any normal human would do, when someone directs a camera at their face.
Like Chloe said, it’s so effing prevalent when you go on a trip, city break, or general holiday. There was my trip to Thailand last year where I was pissed off that one resort I stayed in didn’t look like the photos on Booking.com, not just because it was a vile and gross shit-tip misrepresentation and I felt financially robbed, but also because how the hell was I going to take nice photographs there? What the fuck would I upload to Instagram for the next few days? I’ve exhausted palm trees and coconut beverages to no end!
Then there was my recent city break to Paris where I left with a sinking feeling that I hadn’t “made the most of the trip” because I hadn’t taken enough photographs of possibly the most photographed city in the whole world. I’m embarrassed to say, it felt like a partial waste of money to walk out of it with little Instagram-worthy photos to show for it because, well, if it’s not on Instagram, did it really happen at all?
Then, there was my latest trip to Budapest. I booked it for a Valentine’s Day present for my boyfriend. We were sitting in a coffee shop in the city when he said half-jokingly “Did you actually book this trip as a present for me or did you just book it so I would take loads of photos of you for your blog and Instagram?”
Only joking. I bought it for him for many reasons – mostly because it was just a nice surprise – but I’d be lying to both you and him if I said the opportunity to take some nice photographs wasn’t one of those reasons.
And it’s not just holidays. It’s weekends. It’s dinners with friends. Meet-ups with family members. A walk to my local coffee shop. Nora Ephron – a journalist/ producer/ director/ wonder woman who always hugely inspired approach to writing – lived by the words of “everything is copy”, meaning everything in life may one day be used and written about. If that was true then, it’s as true as it is now, although perhaps living through the modern millennial incarnation of “everything is content” – photograph this now, and you may be able to use it as a photo for something some day. I’m left with an inability to ever switch off and properly relax, and zone out from work.
A billion think pieces have been written about our generation’s obsession with photographing everything to show on social media – most of it with the bottom line of how we’re so obsessed with capturing it on film, we’re missing the reality of it. You go to gigs and even the bands playing will say “put your phones away for just this one song and just live in this moment” (ahem, Matty from the 1975). Some designers have put phone bans on their shows – this for many reasons, one being because witnessing it through your phone camera distracts from the true artwork. When you’re a blogger, you can file it under the excuse that it’s for your work – you have to do it. And yeah, we do. But it doesn’t mean it’s any less true.
So I’m sitting here really asking myself WHY do I feel the need to photograph everything?
It used to be about documenting things. I’ve always taken photos – from taking a disposable camera into secondary school, to emo-ey self-timer snaps of my outfits for MySpace (oh cringe), to taking my digital camera out on nights out during freshers yea at uni and uploading the photos to Facebook the next day (seriously, why did I do this? I have thousands of hideous photos to go through and untag myself from)
Then, it became more sharing my life on social media. Documenting your antics is great, but social media lets you tell your story to others too.
And now, realistically, as I’ve began to make an income from documenting and sharing, it’s about keeping up, it’s about not wanting to miss out and keeping people interested. After growing a following, a lot of it is about business – taking photos of everything means I never run out of things to share, or drop off the radar. And it’s also about comparison. Keeping up with the Instagram Jones’. Other girls doing what I do are sharing their fabulous, glamorous, and inspiring lives, and I want to create a similar space too.
The problem is now, half of the time I feel like I’m living my life not just through the lens, but for the lens.
Truth is, holidays and moments and life should be about making memories. Yes, photographs help capture these memories, but when we photograph everything, a lot of it becomes white noise. I don’t remember the moments I flick my hair and look at my coffee cup whilst my boyfriend takes a little candid snapshot, or a posed group shot of me and my friends – the photos that make it onto social media – I remember the long walks at dusk, the way that he looked at me at dinner that night, how we all laughed when my friend fell of her chair – I rarely capture these moments on camera because I just can’t! (And in fairness, if I caught the latter, I’d be putting that up on YouTube quicker than you can say gone viral)
You can’t capture that. You can’t make ‘content’ out of that. And even if you could, should you? Or are we just making our own lives into a reality TV show? These are the moments you miss when you’re too busy trying to filter your food, or check you in at this new bar, or hashtag #blessed!
You simply cannot capture everything. I think our more-is-more, “have it all” culture is partly to blame. We’re very greedy, we want to see everything, and show everything, and we’re getting very nosy too. It’s getting a little too all-consuming at times. And as a blogger, finding the balance between work and life is hard because you effectively are your job. Your job is you. At what point do you switch off your little content antennae and say fuck Jesus and his bread and fish, I have got enough poached egg brunches in my iPhone camera roll to feed the 5000 and then some?
It seems that we’re so obsessed with capturing the moment for a tiny online picture that we’re starting to miss the bigger picture. Literally.
Photography by Katie Brown