I’ve been spending some time this past month building up my Instagram grid (if you have Instagram, you can find me @bonnafied). I’m pretty new to Instagram and feel like I’m just now starting to get a handle on what I can do with it. I spent my first month on Instagram just trying to sort out what filter did what. I started sharing some of my Instagram photos on a carefully edited Tumblr, but my Instagram grid itself was a haphazard scramble of photos, half of which I wanted to delete and didn’t bother to. It took me a month to realize that you could take photos using your regular phone camera and then pull those photos into Instagram to edit, rather than taking photos directly through Instagram. Then it took me another little while to realize that Instagram is a photo-sharing network in and of itself, with a whole community of users who take their Instagram sharing and storytelling very seriously — promoting the iPhone as legitimate photographic tool, with its own set of beauties and limitations, just as with any other kind of camera; promoting iPhone photography as its own medium, with all of the filters and apps attendant to an art form that people take time to master.
This is such a photographic journey, discovering and utilizing all of the tools that are available now to instantaneously share, connect, reach out, and communicate with each other.
As I’ve spent more time on my Instagram feed, I’ve learned a bunch about how people are editing their photos, and seen many different kinds of storytelling. Some people use Instagram like Facebook (fitting, too, now that they’re One), sharing snapshots of meals and friends; some have 100,000 followers and every photo is a small photographic masterpiece. There are those whose photos tell an unfolding, daily story of family life spent in fields and backyards; those who document the ways light plays off of the skyscrapers in Manhattan as they walk to or from work every morning.
I’m also seeing the kinds of photos that people are taking on the iPhone 4. My friend Casey (the one who gifted his old iPhone 3 to me) did warn me about the staggering difference in quality between iPhone 3 and iPhone 4 photo resolution. He knew that, as a photographer, I would care about the difference once I realized what the difference was. But it took me a while to realize it; it was a novelty for me simply to take a cell phone photo that didn’t look like I was underwater.
Now that I’m aware of the difference, it’s probably just a matter of time before I upgrade. Yes, I’m thinking about upgrading, two years after the iPhone 4 came out. There’s always a sort of bittersweetness to realizing that I want something better than what I currently have; for a while there, I was practically tucking my iPhone 3 into bed and kissing it goodnight each night… and now my mind is already on to the next shiny thing. But that’s the line that I keep attempting to walk: Do something beautiful with what I have, upgrade when I can, and then keep doing something beautiful.
(Instead of, for example, making a virtue of using low-grade tools, and then making a virtue of refusing to upgrade, and then feeling weirdly resentful and hating my own art and going into a death-spiral and ultimately becoming a nun.)
I got back from Ann Arbor a couple of days ago and am still trying to get my thoughts together about what to write. Ok, I’ll start here.
1. It’s cold in Michigan in mid-March. Like, windchill-and-bare-trees cold. Why did I not predict that? Because I’m from California and I perpetually arrive everywhere under-dressed, with a one-inch strip of exposed skin between the bottom of my jacket and the start of my pants.
2. My hair liked that weather. I don’t know what it was, maybe just the shampoo? But every morning that I woke up in Ann Arbor, my hair was like, Ta-Daaaa!!!
This post is really called “On Revolution.”
I was in Ann Arbor for five days to spend time with my friend Shelley as she negotiated a healing process. There wasn’t any question for me about being there, only how long I might be able to stay.
There were times during those few days when I felt paradoxically heavy with feeling and stretched perilously thin, like a water balloon that was just a little overfull.
But most of the time, I felt space on every side and in every direction. I could see my own breath in the mornings, and the clouds of my breath indicated my aliveness with every exhale. I remembered more clearly that what I really want to do is to take photos, to create beautiful space (both home and community space), and to feel okay with where I’m at. That’s all. And that everything that I’m doing, every day, gets me closer to the things that will happen when I’m ready for them.
I would never presume to think that my Future and Destiny are waiting patiently for me; more so that I create them as I’m able to, one day at a time. In the meantime, I’m also here, today, just as alive right now as I presumably will be in the Near and Far Future I’m working towards.
The revolution that I’m trying to build is, firstly, inside of myself. It is intrinsically tied to better learning how to bring myself into every space that I come into, as honestly and wholly as possible. Being available to a friend and feeling all of the shades of emotion that come with it. Asking for and accepting help in turn when I recognize that I need it. Telling a story about myself that is real, in every interaction with another person. This is the most foundational form of revolution I can imagine.
I recently took a leave of absence from a volunteer-run health clinic that I’m a part of. No particular reason why, except that I knew that I needed to not have that obligation for a little while. At the meeting where I needed to get the request approved, I felt compelled to try to justify my leave with some kind of made-up reason that I thought might go over better — something about additional work responsibilities or travel or school load. I ended up saying the truth, without apology: I needed to take a mental health break so that I could take care of myself and ultimately want to come back. I was surprised, and then not, when no one asked for any further explanation.
Why? Because I represent myself accurately at that clinic and it was clear that I was saying exactly what I meant: that I need a break and that I’ll come back. And because it’s the kind of workplace culture that accepts that people are real. People don’t go through rough times in their personal lives and then come into the office excited to productively create measurable outcomes. Of course not. And in that clinic meeting, for one of the first times in my life, I said out loud that I needed a break to take care of myself. Regardless of the response I got, it was a revolutionary act on my own behalf.
This is the kind of self-care work that centers on myself, but I don’t consider it self-centeredness in the way people normally use the term to mean selfishness or arrogance. It’s a matter of treating myself as an equal, and of refusing to compromise or sacrifice myself in my quest to make greater social change. I don’t want to be a martyr. If I wouldn’t volunteer someone else’s life and happiness to a social cause, I won’t volunteer my own.
There was a time when my ideas about social change were more “progressive,” more filled with protest and political theory — and I do think that being curious about theory and history and social movements is a part of loving oneself and loving others. But lately I’m going more local and more self-centered. I’m imagining creating a community space filled with good food and art and books, the kind of space where people come to have conversations and to sit with themselves, where I get to interact with people as they come and go. A community space where people are treated as though they’re real. I want to make good space, have good friends, raise happy kids, and revolt. This is the start of my revolution.