Monday, 11 September 2017

Why Polaroids Are Scary AF


A few months ago now I bought a Fujifilm Instax Polaroid camera and, as much as I love it, it's really made me think about a few things.

Now, the film is so expensive (about £1 per photo) so it’s made me super aware of everything I am snapping. I don’t want to waste the film on a photo that I don’t like so I really am thinking about every photo I am taking on it which is something I’m not used as I’ve had a camera on my phone for as long as I can remember.

The process of waiting for the photo to become clear is exciting, unnerving but most of all, petrifying and that’s because I don’t have any control over what it looks like. This photo that I’m waiting to see is the reality before any editing or altering and it’s not going to receive my editing treatment – that photo is here and it’s here to stay in all its truthful glory…

Born in 1994, I am from that weird middle-of-the-road generation when it comes to technology. I remember dial-up internet but I can't really remember not using computers in school. My childhood photos are all taken on disposable cameras but by the time I hit my teenage years, I had a phone that could take (grainy) photos.

My relationship with social media? I had a Piczo and then a Bebo which meant that in all my photos, I was plastered with dodgy makeup and sporting duck face chic or maybe a ‘peace out’ sign. These photos would then go through a rigorous editing process and there was no VSCO or FaceTune then so it was simply a case of picking from ‘sepia’, ‘negative’ ‘grained’ filters… or ‘black and white’ if you’re feeling classy. My life revolved around whose ‘top 5’ I was in or who my ‘other half’ was. I lived for people requesting to ‘own’ my selfies and I can barely think about the agonising torment I felt when I gave someone my ‘love’ for the day and they didn’t return it.

However cringe-worthy all this seems now if you were part of my generation, chances are, you will have become accustomed to picking best selfie from 50 look-a-like photos and putting it through an editing process of some description. The rest follows like clock-work. We post that photo and wait for the likes and the comments to roll in. Our virtual popularity much out-weighs how we are viewed in real life. We are comfortable with hiding our true selves behind an image of perfection and we don’t confront things in person. Growing up, if we had a problem with someone, we would often wait to hash it out on MSN, often saying much worse things than we ever would if the person was stood in front of us. Now, Twitter is littered with trolls, jealous of that ‘perfect’, ‘Insta-worthy’ selfie you posted whilst sat in your pyjamas with spot cream on your face.

Is it any wonder, like many other people my age, I've been drawn to the idea of Polaroid photos? My generation seems to be yearning for simplicity again (I'm sure you know at least a few people who have bought vintage record players) and it was only after I purchased my Fujifilm Instax that I was aware of this strange wave of anxiety that had come over me.

I couldn't control what I looked like in this photo - I couldn't edit it! This photo is going to be the real me, the 'authentic' me and there's nothing I can do about it!

I have posted truthful authentic posts on my blog like ‘The Truth Behind My Instagram’ where I reveal what I’ve done to change the photos and what was really going on behind the fa├žade. I understand that so many people from my generation feel the pressure to be perfect, to be an edited version of themselves all the time. I understand everything about the media portraying a false, edited reality so why did I feel so anxious when being faced with the raw, authentic truth of what I really am? I work so hard to create an honest, authentic representation of myself online (even going so far as to call myself Authentically Olivia) so, am I a fraud?

That’s where I stop. I understand I’m in the ‘social media cycle’. I know so many people, like me, who are desperate to break out of it. The problem is, I think it’s going to take a lot longer to change our behaviours. I look at these great influencers that work so hard to highlight the problem and act to change that by posting ‘real’ photos of themselves and being honest about their thoughts and feeling to help others and I think it’s so great. I just think we need more of them. At the moment, our social media is over-run with edited, false versions of people and it’s so hard not to feel the pressure to emulate the unachievable perfection that is so unachievable that the people in the photos can’t even achieve it themselves!

So, I have bought a Polaroid camera which will not allow me to edit the outcome. Polaroids are so much fun, freeing and they actually allow me to be creative. I have to think more artistically about what I want the shot to look like before I take a photo. It’s a very different process as I’m so used to opening my camera first and looking at the subject straight through the lens to determine whether it will be a good photo or not.

Anyone from my generation reading this – Yes, Polaroids are petrifying at first but as you relax and accept that not every photo will be perfect, you will start to appreciate the release of pressure and will be able to enjoy the creative process again.


  1. This was interesting, and is something I'd never really thought about. I'm from the generation before you, who started taking pictures using film. In those days the average person had to be really determined if they were going to edit a photo (have it developed, scan it...) so mostly I didn't bother. These days I edit ALL the photos I keep, even if just a little. But they’re rarely of myself.

    It's interesting that being able to easily retouch / filter and share a photo has coincided with the technology to easily take pictures of yourself with something that's already in your pocket. Suddenly we can shoot ourselves anytime anywhere, make it look how we want, and push it out to the world in a flash.

    I think maybe where I (and others of my generation) differ from the younger folks is that we haven’t grown up expecting to share everything online. Plenty of us do anyway, but I think that extends less to lifestyle selfies than it does to other stuff on social media. My generation perhaps wonders why anyone would want to see lots of photos of ourselves if the only point is ‘here I am, perfect and looking gorgeous’; we grew up at a time when that simply wasn’t a thing.

    Social pressure to conform to the images we see, especially in these more connected times, can be nasty and unhealthy. For young girls it can be even worse; take a look at the photoshopped images from @femalesbodies on Insta – toxic stuff. Makes me angry.

    So when I read this blog, I liked what you were saying. I don’t know what the answer is to how we deal with the social pressure on young people especially over how they portray themselves. Changing the world isn’t easy. But I think as parents and friends we need to influence what we can; keep a close eye on our children and friends and make sure they celebrate who they are, how they are. Small steps are better than no steps :-)

    1. Thanks for your comment, Paul! As always, it's so interesting for me to hear your perspective as someone who is from the generation before me!

      I love how when you started taking photos, editing wasn't really a thing unless you were really into photography. I can't imagine how it would feel to be able to take a photo and have everyone accept that's just what it is.

      It's interesting how you say that your generation generally don't feel like they have to share everything online and that was a side I hadn't thought about as much. It must seem quite strange to you and others that everyone my age is constantly putting glossy photos of themselves up. I guess it could be seen as vein but, like you mentioned about how much pressure there is on social media these days, I think it's more about people trying to live up to what they think they should look like!

      I definitely agree that it's up to us to make small steps towards empowering the people close to us to feel comfortable in being themselves (imperfections and all!)I am really interested to see what happens in the future and whether it flips completely and it's 'uncool' to post highly edited photos... we'll see!


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