Afternoons in Denver
I must admit as a photographer it's weird these days to post images of people not wearing masks. It's one of the only times, in all the years I've been taking pictures, where I feel like I'm falsifying an image. Most of the time the point of photography is to capture people as they naturally are, allow them to be themselves, and help them - as much as possible- relax in front of the camera. While many people are taking this time to document what a crazy part of history we've all lived through, many people simply want a holiday picture where you can see the one thing we haven't been able to for months - their smiles.
I know that everyone is in the same boat. The truth behind these poses is that they are set up far away from other people, with masks worn to and from each place. Instead of my typical five lenses, I bring to a shoot, I instead work with my two longest, keeping myself only in shouting distance. The fun conversations I have with people at their car when they arrive or before they leave is shortened to a wave goodbye as we all try to respect each other's personal bubbles. It's still weird to look back at the images and know that the experience was so different than what the images portray.
It's brought up the question I think we all have asked ourselves through the whole pandemic, do we show ourselves in masks, do we let on about our struggles and what we are going through, or do we take a moment to photograph ourselves strong, triumphant, as though nothing can stop us. Does a mask in an image become a symbol for so much more?
It's often said that people pretend to have a perfect life on the internet. Through social media, people share their vacations, their promotions, their new car or house, but they keep hidden the divorce they are going through, financial struggles, or abuse at home. Did the internet long ago become a place where people hid the masks they wore?
As a person that doesn't like social media very much/ poorly uses it (ask my Best Friend Christina, if she was running my Instagram I would actually do it correctly), I feel like I'm the opposite personality. I turn to places like my blog by being raw and vulnerable. I'm less likely to share the joys in my life, keeping those wonderful weekends and beautiful gems private and something I enjoy myself. I've tried to be better about it, but scrolling back through my phone to see all the amazing moments I've been able to have even during COVID this year I realize there are so many trips I don't post, adventures only me and the people that were there know about, and precious life-changing moments that I don't feel the need to put online. I would rather use my voice, the little one that I have, to be honest about things I go through in the hope that someone else out there will feel less alone.
It was nice when I was going through cancer to talk to other people that could vent about it too. It felt good to joke about losing my hair, weird food cravings, and not brush it under the rug. I wore my mask, so to speak, for all to see, and being honest that it was hard at the time helped. Sometimes it's nice to not have to be okay.
Maybe the answer isn't one or the other, maybe it's a mix of both. I probably shouldn't be so shy to gush about magical nights under star filled skies, and people who struggle with the need to project an perfect image should feel a little more comfortable feeling human.
Either way I think all choices are brave. It's a hard thing coming online and putting your thoughts out for the world to read. Good or bad. Whether in an image, through words, art, etc. my hope for everyone is that they find the people reading, or looking you up, are doing so with the best intentions.