Wednesday, July 24Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

If You Didn’t Take a Picture, Did It Really Happen?

Be honest. How many photos have you taken or posted online today? Did you upload a photo of you and your friends from last night on Facebook? Instagram a photo of your lunch? Post yet another photo of Founders on your Snapchat story?

According to photographer Paul Strand, “your photography is a record of your living” and this idea summarises today’s social media age. We have the opportunity to broadcast every single aspect of our lives through photos and videos to the extent that we can ask the question ‘if you didn’t take a picture, did it really happen?’

I’m sure, like me, that whenever you do anything remotely exciting you take a picture and post it on Snapchat or another social media platform. But this action of actively posting a photo online can suggest that we are seeking validation from our peers via the social currency of views or likes, rather than simply remembering a moment for ourselves. This thus encourages us to compete and compare ourselves to others.

But of course you can take as many videos or photos and upload them to wherever you want, nobody can stop you, right? Well, wrong. Alicia Keys and Guns N Roses have decided to ban mobile phones from their concerts following on from Adele’s demand that a fan watch her show “in real life, rather than through [her] camera”. This raises the argument we are so focused on documenting our lives that we are neglecting to live in the moment. I definitely understand this, in the summer I took far too many photos and videos at festivals which I either haven’t watched since or simply deleted.
But while it must be annoying for artists to only see a room full of iPhones rather than people, the NME argues that “personally documenting a moment on [an] insanely amazing piece of technology… does not mean we’re not fully embracing it too.”

But ultimately, whatever happens to you, happens, whether you took photographic proof or not. You did have to take the bins out yesterday, you did oversleep and miss your lecture and you did have a great time at the SU on Friday. Therefore the ‘record of your living’ does not have to be only managed by your camera roll.