I have a habit of browsing through food blogs. The photos are tempting – bright, colorful, and immaculate. Sometimes I replicate these recipes – a couple weeks ago, faced with a deluge of oranges from the tree in my backyard, I made sweet orange marmalade, based off a recipe I found online. Last month, when I was craving pumpkin spice lattes, I made my own pumpkin mixture to add to my morning coffee. I found the recipe online, my attention caught by the gorgeous photos.
When I made these recipes, the results looked flat in comparison to the glossy photos found online. Don’t get me wrong – the results tasted delicious. But my kitchen counters are worn, the lighting is funky, and my utensils are chipped. My life lacks the filters and editing of modern photography.
I live a pretty ordinary life. My house is a 1920s’-era bungalow that is slowly being into turned into a home. The furniture is sparse, the bathrooms are old, and the garden is an on-going mess. I still don’t own a proper bed or matching sheets. I eat good food – sometimes. My husband and I are happy together – most of the time. When guests come for dinner, I scramble to put my house in order and to make sure that I have enough matching plates. My efforts at entertaining are a comedy in errors.
We live in a world of photo-editing, where any photo can be turned into a surreal work of art. When I look at magazine photos and Instagrams, I see an alternate reality. Photoshop “accidents” are memorable; people lose limbs and gain curves in unexpected places. Less notable is the effect that photo-editing has on the way we look at life. Surrounded by photos of immaculate kitchens and beautiful examples of perfect lives, I feel inadequate.
Behind every two-dimensional photo is a three-dimensional reality. Photos capture a sliver of life, a bare millisecond of the world we live in. In math class we put one over infinity, resulting in a number that forever slopes towards zero. With photos, we take an infinitesimal fraction of reality and subject it to further manipulations. The result is glossy, lightened, and devoid of the visceral heft of the real world.
We all edit our lives; when I talk to people, I don’t go into every detail of my life. I pick and choose what I want to share. When I write, I pick and choose my stories, in order to create a specific narrative. Editing is a necessary process of life.
Where do we draw the line? When does editing stop being necessary and start becoming dishonest? There are many different ways in which I can re-arrange my life. I can cut and paste my experiences to create very different stories. Each version presents a slightly different reality. Which narrative is true to who I am? Which snapshot presents my reality?