Every Photo I am Tagged in, 2005-Present
In response to some reflection on the purpose of a public persona I have withdrawn the thousands of photographs digitally immortalizing passing phases of my lifetime from the public domain (so much as is within my control). I have saved these images into my own archive and homogenized their virtual representation into a a single composite, infinitely layered, one image stacked onto another, each at three percent opacity.
I have done the viewer a great favor; I have expedited this process of picturing “who I am.” Of course, I am all of my experience. The image above is my portrait: blurry lines, an allusion to landscape (light at the top, dark on bottom), if you look closely you will find the faces of my loved ones etched into my own. Prior to this amalgam some images might have appeared to be more significant than others. A beautiful gray contests this hierarchy by expressing a more full spectrum of reality that includes the banal and momentous, the good, bad, and ugly. This is the spectrum of our humanity that goes missing in the surface experience of social media.
Now, please consider whether photographs are honest portrayals of memory. It is true that a photograph will say something different to the person in the photograph than to the person that photograph is shared with. But what if we don't know the person we are sharing with? What if that person is a company that makes dividends from the information contained within our images? Why then do we share? Is our privacy, albeit our autonomy (freedom?), of less value than a paltry sum? Do I posses the freedom to be forgotten? What is the price I pay to not be on social media (I've heard curator after curator express that I might as well be dead to them if I do not have an active website and social media accounts). When do our luxuries become so essential that they begin to posses us? It appears we may be on the front lines of a reinstatement of the feudal system, but I digress.
Back to the subject of photography: If my image is bound to history, static and in a public domain, how then can I move into new expressions of identity? The answer is that I must have control of my image. And my version of reclaiming my image is to homogenize the virtual experience of it. I have done myself a favor here. The importance of an online presence is psychological burdensome. It is more burdensome then at first I wanted to admit. On this side of attempting some amount of anonymity and forgottenness, I can feel my sense of self peeling from the void of social echo chambers. But we'll see how long this may last.