Photos Are a Lie!

Do you ever look at photos and think that they’re a lie? Do you ponder at the glossy, artificially flash-lit smiling faces and think… That’s not how it was?

I’ve been going through all my photos, tagging ‘Faces’ in them. Ten years ago when I was sticking my Italy photos into a cardboard album with a glue stick, I would never have thought that I’d soon be ‘tagging’ faces in my images on a screen…. How technology has changed photography! Anyway… The new ‘Photos’ app for OSX has a feature where you tag a face and it finds matches. So there I sat watching the carousel of my face over the last 20 years appear on-screen. I’ve had to then tell the program if it is in fact me or not – the program kept finding equally attractive faces to match to mine 🙂 – ‘Click to reject faces’ that aren’t me it says. Well it’s been an interesting experience.

I look at my face gazing down the lens, mouth upturned in a smile, eyes animated… Happy. I look at the surrounds… A beach, a famous place, a restaurant and think it looks happy… Yet, why is it that the actual experience doesn’t match that happy exterior? The pixels of my smile don’t represent my feelings… Camera lenses and sensors don’t capture emotion, stress, anxiety and negative mental noise. The resolution isn’t high enough to portray intrusive thoughts and worries that lurk in dark spaces behind the smiling face.

At times, the camera can catch you off-guard. Someone snapping a candid moment of a pensive face, wrought with trouble and concerns, eyes laden with the heaviness of life, mouths tightly shut to keep the dialogue internal… But most of my 5,612 faces so far have smiled.

Now I know that the human mind has an internal bias to view happiness in retrospect or to project it into the future, however I think it’s more than that. Sometimes, looking through photos makes me happy… They almost trick me even. I think, what a happy and interesting life…  Yet in fact the camera only captures the surface smiles, engaged eye contact and context. It doesn’t penetrate to the deep level of tensions and negative undercurrents that run through the mind like a boisterous, obnoxious child. It captures the smiling family gathered in front of the lens on Christmas day, not the arguments and conflicts that followed.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course there are indeed times of happiness; a wedding, the birth of a child and the camera captures these moments too. Yet in other images, my knowledge of the context and the emotions of life at the time of the photo leads me to question the authenticity of a smile.

I wish I could live my life in photos. Live in the present, mindful surface of still smiles and shallow, narrative context and be free from the actual associated intrusive metal noise.

1, 2, 3, cheese!




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