In an age of digital photography, we’ve become so dependent on the ability to fix our photographs that often, the original is lost. Instead, we have a photo that has been erased of its flaws in order to create the “perfect picture.” I can’t help but wonder how often this idea of “Photoshopping” mirrors our behavior as humans. As I began to think about my poorly developing photography skills and my great dependence on programs like Photoshop, I began to wonder how often my life reflects a Photoshop picture—one that has been cropped, adjusted, filtered or distorted.
Recently, some friends of mine have used Polaroid pictures for their photography. Even though digital photography is becoming the standard, they have taken joy in using this old-school fashion of film. Some enjoy using a Polaroid camera to have an immediate record of what’s going on while it’s still going on, while others like to use it as an artistic spin on their photography.
I have come to absolutely adore Polaroid pictures. I think one of the biggest reasons for my Polaroid passion is that you can’t edit them. I know that may sound weird. Most people love fixed photos—no one wants an ugly photo. The beauty of Photoshop and other photo editing programs is that you can fix pictures in just about every way imaginable. If you are miserable at cropping, you have a fancy editing program that fixes your failure. You can get rid of red-eye, you can adjust the brightness and contrast, you can change color to black and white … you can even Photoshop someone into the picture who wasn’t in the picture to begin with! But, I think that’s where my love for Polaroid pictures comes in.
Think about it. Polaroid pictures don’t lie. A Polaroid picture depicts what is really there, right in front of you. If there is crappy yellow lighting, that’s what you get. If the subject has their eyes crossed, that’s what you get. There’s no editing it. The picture is immediate and unfixable. What you take is what you get.
The thought occurred to me—does my life reflect this idea? Do I rely on Photoshop not only for my photographs, but also for snapshots of my life? How authentic am I, really? By stripping something of all its flaws, it is also being stripped of its authenticity. This idea struck me deeply, and I began to wonder how authentic my life and relationships are. I began to search my heart, asking myself tough questions like, “How do I present myself?” and “Am I honest with others about how I see myself?” And I think the hardest question, “Am I hiding anything?”
I believe authenticity can be one of the hardest things for a Christian. We struggle between two identities—the old and the new. In Galatians, it says, “I have been crucified with Christ, and no longer live.” As Christians, we are to die to our old selves and allow Christ to live within us. We are a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, I think for a long time I believed that meant not only was the old me gone, but that it would never be seen again. I came to believe that if I found myself amidst “old-self” behavior, I must not have really surrendered to Christ. The reality was, I just needed to continue surrendering. If we call ourselves Christ followers, we are continually surrendering to Christ, because we are also amidst being human. I’ve come to understand that when it says, “I am crucified with Christ” that it isn’t a one-time deal—it’s continuous. We want people to believe that we’ve surrendered to Christ, that we’ve got it all together, so we put on a façade to create a flawless, polished picture. However, Christ calls us to a messy faith—one that is full of flaws, and Photoshop-free. That realization gave me a tremendous freedom—freedom from the façade and freedom from Photoshop. No longer do I have to crop out the parts I don’t want people to see, fix the contrast or smooth over the rough patches.
As I move towards no longer fearing Polaroid life, I hope to be the as is, flaw-filled, picture of Christ’s work in progress, and am continuously inspired by the beauty of those who dare to be Polaroid people—people who are authentically living out their faith, flaws and all.