Every Memory Of Looking Out The Back Door

14 09 2011

Whoever said that a picture is worth a thousand words never lived during the internet era. Sure, in days of old we may have only had those old photographs to send us on a trip down Memory Lane. But today we have the ability to share those pics, to post them to the social graph, to go viral with them. And apparently make money.

Such is the case of PostSecret, the photographic confessional that Frank Warren started as an art project six years ago. Today, after a wildly viral website, five books, speaking engagements and over a half-million photo postcard secrets submitted by people the world over, PostSecret is the number one app on iTunes.

And it has so captured the hearts and souls of people…people like you and me…that a thousand words do not even begin to come close to telling the stories. Why? Because we need to tell our stories. Because we often find ourselves in the middle of others’ stories. That our shortcomings and misgivings are really not so uncommon after all. That, at the end of the roll of film (now there’s a metaphor ready to be retired!), maybe we’re not so different at all. You know. Human.

To say that taking, sharing, looking at photographs is a visceral experience is putting it too lightly. It’s about seeing the world through a certain type of lens. It’s about putting on the lens of others, and seeing the world from their point of view. It’s about transporting oneself to a different place and time.

It may not have started out as a business, but Warren found one. Or maybe I should say that the business found him. And it is little different from this year’s phenom Dear Photograph, launched last spring by Taylor Jones and just inked to a book deal.

Maybe it says something about modern society and our collective need to find, to share, through a medium that has been around for well over a century, but until only recently was one not easily spread to the masses. Maybe it speaks of our fears, our insecurities. Maybe it screams our longingness to belong in an era in which we are long on angst and short on hope.

It’s a zeitgeist few would have ever predicted, especially considering the hyperconnectivity of the wired world. Maybe the human condition has not changed much after all, thus allowing sites like PostSecret and Dear Photograph to flourish because they so tapped into the emotional bloodstream of a world having a hard time keeping up with all the change.

All I know is that I find myself melting into a puddle of pixels every time I read the secrets, every time I see a picture of a picture of the past in the present. I see you. I see me. That there’s money to be made along the way is mere sideshow. No, I am confessing that photographs speak to me in ways that the written word never has. The voice of music hasn’t the sonic quality of an image that speaks to my heart.

That’s my secret. What’s yours?

Dr “It’s Hard To Say It” Gerlich




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