There’s a popular hashtag people add to photos on social media: #nofilter. It means that you didn’t add any color-enhancement or other editing filters to a photo to make it better.
My oldest nephew and I (who share a common interest in photography) have had long discussions about filters. Are they a cheat, making your image look better than it really is? Or are they a way to make an image uniquely yours, adding your vision to what the camera picked up?
Along with the less-subtle Instagram filters (Valencia, anyone?), photos are retouched in hundreds of other ways: cropping, adjusting the light, editing out unwanted elements, retouching and more. Very rarely is a professional photograph #nofilter.
It makes me think about the way we filter and retouch our lives. Do we ever see moments “unfiltered”, for what they truly are? Do we see the unvarnished present moment, or are we constantly adding the filters of our mood and expectations and judgements? Are we taking it all in or zooming in on the most pleasing or displeasing elements? Do we want a moment to be a certain way so we simply edit out the things we don’t want to see? Is everything perfected before we let anyone else into the moment with us?
Obviously, we’re all doing this most of the time, and it’s an incredibly helpful human adaptation. It allows us to process the huge amounts of information our eyes take in and decide what’s important and what’s not. It allows us to construct a narrative about what we see that helps us anchor our memories, be it of a beloved child’s first birthday or the layout of our favorite grocery store.
But it’s probably important to check your filters, and switch them out often. When you can, stop to really see what’s going on, without automatically eliminating what’s undesirable, putting too much focus on one thing, or coloring your whole life with a too-perfect (or too-gloomy) sheen.
Filters are helpful as long as they’re used as the tools they are, not misinterpreted as The Way Things Are.
Last night, driving home after a wonderful afternoon with my eldest nephew and niece, we watched the last of a glorious sunset while they sang along with George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” on the radio.
As I drove and they sang, I dropped all my filters, opened up the aperture of my heart and took it all in. My camera wasn’t there, but I can see it all, unfiltered. Especially the happy, grateful tears shining in my eyes.
Picture of the adorable niece and eldest nephew
taken yesterday at Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival,
with my iPhone. It is, of course, #nofilter.