How I keep calm: Capturing history the way I want to remember it

How have you been keeping calm during the pandemic? Carillon

Inspired by, How I keep calm is our new series featuring different ways students are finding peace and contentment during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

by Isaac Adeoluwa Atayero, Contributor

Crisis has never been as inescapable as it is right now. Whether it is dealing with the pandemic, social justice issues or a professor who is yet to figure out Zoom, there is some level of difficulty and looming danger that is present everywhere you look.

The overt documentation of this period in time has been unrelenting thanks to social media and high quality smartphone cameras. Everyone has something to say and share or reshare and it has all become overwhelming for me. When I look back at this year, I don’t want to look back at crisis after crisis. I don’t want my phone gallery to only be filled with protest after COVID-19 warning.

So I decided to do something about it.

I started taking portraits of my friends and anyone who would let me put my iPhone in their face. I have always loved taking pictures with the portrait mode on my iPhone but I did not realize how much fun it would be to take pictures of other people smiling and being crisis-free in that moment.

I look at my camera roll now and I smile at the silly faces, the glammed up winks, and the effortless beauty that is able to exist during these crazy times. It is important that we are able to create some type of pseudo-reality for ourselves and preserve some of the joy in the world. Taking pictures enables me to do that.

It allows me to control, in a small way, the energy I surround myself with. It gives me the ability to capture the people around me in what I believe is their true essence. It affords me the chance to celebrate people in a world that gives you little to celebrate. There have been so many cancelled birthdays, anniversaries, naming ceremonies, weddings, funerals and vow renewals this year. If my request to take someone’s picture brings them even a little bit of that stolen celebration, that is plenty.

For so many people, reality is too real and there is seemingly no way to get ahead of it. I took some proactivity but I’m glad I have been able to make it to the other side. I am strongly considering creating an Instagram page to share my portraits and maybe some of the stories of the people featured. Happy stories of course. Nothing sad or dramatic. We have an abundance of that already.

We are all part of history in a way that those that came before have not been. The times are no longer just happening to us, we are also happening to the times. We are all historians with our platforms and devices. If we choose to, we can help tell more nuanced stories of what it felt like to be alive in 2020 through our Snapchat videos, Instagram reels, boring Tik Toks, rambunctious tweets or whatever device we choose to chronicle our lived experiences with. 

Many of us do this already without realizing it. We are usually propagating someone else’s version of our own reality and fully accepting it. I challenge you to stop. Take a break from social media and the news. Ask yourself what you really feel about hot button issues minus influencers and the media. Discover how angry you are or how at peace you really are. Read, write and share from the place that is most honest to you.

Capture history the way you want to remember.

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