What is a photograph

At each moment, I believe that I am completely changed.

I have been lying across our couch looking at old photos and blog posts from only a week ago. I realized, after a while, that the feeling which fills me is nostalgic. Not for a time or an experience. It’s for a person who exists no longer.

I dislike old photographs of myself. There is something in the eyes, in the way the lips are shaped, in the slant of the eyebrows that no longer feels authentic. It’s more than dislike; it’s an aversion, a disgust, a fear. I don’t like who I was because I am afraid of that person; or perhaps I am afraid that I would not have liked who I was, even though it was so recently.

Yet I look inward, then. I don’t look in a mirror because this would seem just as inauthentic; the time lost as my eyes received the sensory input and made sense of it would be time in which I have changed. I look inward without using my eyes. I like what I feel, I sense a unity which is wholly absent from viewing photographs.

I do not dislike seeing myself in photographs because I dislike myself. I dislike the photographs because it is no person I see, but a ghost. It is not me, nor is it anyone else. I am within myself, and only there will I ever find me.

Looking at these old photos, though, I realize that I was happy. Although it was not me, really, the person in the photos was happy. This counts for something. More than that, I know there will be more photos; I want there to be more photos because I want to remember these times and experiences. I want to, one day, look back and dislike the photos yet realize I was happy.

And I also know that now, I am happy too.

This is not a statement about what is real, nor about my identity. This is a simple attempt to understand the dichotomy between photograph and reality which seems so relevant to this media-driven world. Each person experiences it differently, yet somehow I feel that what I have said is, in some sense, getting somewhere.

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