Personal propaganda

The offhand dismissal of family snapshots as being casual and unposed when they tend to be the most-posed and edited of all photos we deal with is a case in point. Family photos are taken and edited for a very specific purpose and they generally all tell the same story—namely that this is a functional family where everyone is happy.

Expecting the Unexpected

Many people forget how much personal snapshots are edited to present only the memories we want to remember and show.

Documentary Art

Given the sheer magnitude of photographs which are uploaded to Facebook, it’s really easy to use them as evidence that most people don’t think about photos and that the meanings are clear and universally understood.

I think people understand how photography works when the photos are taken. Only they forget, or choose to ignore, everything when they look at photos later.

Actually, as the designated family photographer, I know this is how people behave.

The most difficulty I get with my family photos is when I’m taking them. Some people always try and pose. Other people try and run. Others just want me to delete everything I take. Everyone knows what taking a photo means and is hyper-conscious of their image in a given shot.

Those same people forget everything when they view the final results later. I know that I’ve selected shots which present people and the event in their most-positive light. And I know that people have tried to influence me toward making those shots at the events. Most people don’t keep that awareness* and instead happily view the images and buy into the view that everything was great and fun.

*If they do, it’s in a “wow, I don’t look as bad as I thought I would” way.

I don’t think that means that all the photos on Facebook are supposed to mean that we’re all having fun. I think they mean that we want to convince each other—and ourselves—that we’re having fun.

It’s uncommon for people to document the unpleasant memories. We’re geared to try and forget those things. So this isn’t a criticism of the way we deceive ourselves. It’s just an acknowledgement of the fact that we do this and that the photo we show to people which says “this is how much fun I had” is really a photo we’re showing ourselves to say the same thing.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

7 thoughts on “Personal propaganda”

  1. Pingback: Trust | n j w v

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: