I went to see Def Leppard a couple of months ago with two friends who are the kind of mega fan that I am (yes I am an 80’s baby hair metal junkie). We went upstairs to take our seats and of course took the obligatory selfies to prove we were at the show-a friend did get us some amazing seats with a view that was well worth documenting. As the show went on and I looked around the crowd I started to think about the different experiences some of the fans had over the years. It was something Joe Elliot commented on as stage banner. He asked for people to hold up their phones, or lighters, for an encore song. It reminded me that we live in an age where no moment goes without technology and social media’s presence.
It is now rare that we do not document every little thing in our life, from favorite bands when we first encounter them to every social encounter that we have. When the band played their 1983 hit single “Photograph” something dawned on me. Joe Elliot sings about “all I’ve got is a photograph” of the woman he is pining away for. If that song was written now there is no way he would be referring to ONE photograph. Whether it would be a film star or hair metal fan he was lusting over he would have an archival amount of photographs at the click of his finger.
This brings me to today when I was glancing through some old photo albums on Facebook. I came across several photographs of myself that made me cringe. It took everything I had not to delete them. These were photographs from about 10 years ago when I was going through a health crisis and it shows in the pictures from those years. For several years I struggled with stomach issues that eventually led to a diagnosis of celiac. In these photos I saw deep dark circles under my eyes, a puffy face, and an awkward facial expression and an overweight body that say to me “Look!! I am not taking care of myself!! I am eating WAY too many potato chips right now to both soothe my stomach and my heart!”. I wanted so badly to erase social media’s memory of that time of my life, and my friend’s memories with it. I had to argue with myself that these photographs are not on Facebook to point out my flaws, but they are there to serve the wonderful purpose of documenting a time where me or one of my friends decided it was photo worthy. I reminded myself that when I was 80 neither I, nor any one of my friends, care about being a little over-weight or having dark circles in a picture.
I also thought about the technology of the time. 10 years ago it was primarily a digital camera that I or my friends were using. We would take selfies (before they were called that) with a hardcore bright flash and had no way to edit them. The photos I was looking at today present a brutal honesty that Instagram and other apps on our phones have made us forget. There was no way to instantly blur out blemishes, lines, pores, make yourself skinny, anything. If you wanted that then you had to fork over some serious money for Adobe Photoshop.
With modern technology at the press of a button we have “beauty” apps that make all those “imperfections” disappear. We have become numb to what an actual face looks like. I see this in my job all the time, most heart breakingly with teenagers who already are struggling enough with what nature is doing to their bodies. I often find myself wishing that those kids had the luxury of instant gratification photos only being Polaroids which were generally so blown out with flash that you couldn’t see a pore on the skin- and even if you could they were not moments after being taken getting put up on social media for the world to see.
I love new technology with all my heart. I am grateful for the tools it gives us to communicate. I am grateful that I can document precious moments so easily. I love that I can log onto any number of platforms and see photographs of my friend’s children growing up right before my eyes. I love that in mere moments I can send a photograph to my family from across the country.
What I do not love are the new standards being set for beauty. As a makeup artist I strive not to put images out on my IG, this blog, or anywhere else that show an unattainable beauty standard. I will use editing tools, but generally just to lighten a picture taken in dark light, and yes, occasionally to blur a blemish 0r brighten an under eye, but I am very aware that I what I put put in the world affects others. I know that if I post endless pictures of myself, clients, models, whatever that show skin so flawless it does not have a visible pore, or bodies so curvy yet skinny no one could achieve them without a waist trainer and photoshop, that I will affect some one who follows me or reads this. I try to represent all shapes, sizes and colors equally to remind myself, and the world, what beauty really is. Beauty is all that is around us that makes us feel good. It is what makes us want to take a moment to pause. It makes us ponder this wonderful and strange thing called life. Beauty is not an on-point contour and highlight but a state of mind and the coming together of some sort of aesthetic pleasure. I call onto others to join me in this. Dare to post a pic without a filter and notice that the world does not end nor do you lose your loved ones over it. Dare to do some minimal makeup and think more about how much fun you will have when you are out with your friends at the Def Leppard show than how you look. Or go hog wild with a bottle of Aquanet and some hot pink blush. Either way works, just do not forget to actually live life and love every photograph you take.