Not including the actual camera application itself, I currently have 20 photo related apps on my phone. All of which enable the manipulation, alteration and adulteration of images to a greater or lesser degree. I suspect you may think I have a problem and indeed, I have. One that I acknowledge in my Instagram bio, which states "No photo posted willing unaltered".
The reason for the many and varied editing tools, is not that I seek to improve on the majesty of nature but rather on my own photographic skills. Thanks to an impressive range of almost inconsequential eye issues, I have some difficulty in spotting when something is in focus. To me the world is a place of ever-so-slightly-fuzzy edges at every distance; from right under my nose to far, far away. On a day to day basis it's not too inconvenient but it does make me aware of my photographic limitations. Something compounded by having an awful lot of friends who are filmmakers.
Hence 20 photo apps and many minutes spent tweaking images before hitting publish.
And hence my interest in the #NoFilterFeb challenge and what it stands for. Perpetuating the myths of perfection that only create unease and unhappiness in others and in ourselves.
This message hit me in full on Monday when I received a surprise gift. Opening a package that I expected to be a wireless presentation remote. I found it contained a small, rather beautiful, leather bound notebook, with no clue as to the sender. Of course a photo had to be sent to the suspected present-giver and, on reflection, I gave almost no thought to that action. Just a quick snap, a quick caption of thanks and the deed was done.
What took longer and more effort was the photo I took for Instagram. Knowing that I wasn't going to use a filter and suspecting that using any form of editing might not be in the spirit of the month. I had to put more effort into the shot itself. I had to try and find decent lighting in the florescent office environment. I had to make sure that the selected background would make the brown leather pop by itself, not because I'd upped the saturation levels. I had to make sure that framing was right and, that the damn thing was in focus.
For a change, I couldn't rely on fixing it the edit. Instead I had to pay attention to what I was creating. And I have to admit, at the time, I thought it was a pain.
I was wrong, about a few things.
In having to pay attention to what I was doing, I paid more attention to the gift than I might have if it had arrived in January. Not just to its physical attributes but also to what I would use it for, where and how. I thought about perhaps buying a new pen, one more befitting than a biro. I thought about how it might look in a few years time, after the stiff leather had worn with use and what might sprout from the ideas scrawled in it.
Yet even with No Filter February at the front of mind, I was still paying attention to exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time. I was paying attention to the wrong people too. This to me is what No Filter Feb is all about. It's not about the filters on the photos. It's about the filters we use on ourselves and also about who we chose to present that altered version to.
In the act of examining the notebook I was more concerned with crafting an image to share with the world. More concerned with creating an image to show that someone loves me enough to send me a thoughtful and unexpected present. A someone who doesn't use any form of social media and had to make do with a quick snap to show my appreciation.
- KERRY GAFFNEY