There's nothing more satisfying than sorting through photos after a holiday, sharing our favourites with the world. But – Amy Clarkin is here to ask – in doing so, are we really making memories – or distancing ourselves from them?

by Amy Clarkin

My Instagram is filled with carefully curated moments. The camera roll on my phone demands most of my phone’s memory with attempts to freeze time. Carefully posed selfies with friends intermingle with beautiful landscapes and artfully presented meals. Still frames of my puppy form a montage of his growth from eight weeks to nine months, from tiny delicate pup to awkward teenager.

These images demonstrate an innate need to preserve moments. They acknowledge that, with time, memories will fade. As we move on, the distance growing from that particular event, the sounds will become faint echoes, the sensations gentle tingles tickling at the far corners of our minds.

Does it work, these attempts to immortalise moments in frozen time? Does a photograph ever do justice to the stark beauty of the landscape before us? A snapshot of a slice of cake cannot capture the joy as it is placed in front of you, the excitement as your fork glides through it, breaking off that first, decadent bite. It cannot restore the explosion of sweetness in your mouth, your tastebuds dancing as you close your eyes and savour every mouthful. They do not release a rush of wind to toss your hair back as you stand on top of a hill, or the sting of the cold as it hits your cheeks on an icy winter’s day. The laughter of a group of friends, the rush of joy when you explore somewhere new, the pitter patter of your pet’s paws as they trot over to you carrying a beloved toy for you to throw – none of these can be revived by the still frame of a photograph.

“Photos are filtered, captions added – sometimes dreamy, sometimes humorous, occasionally merely a string of emojis – but does this rob them of their authenticity, cloaking them in a haze of ‘Rise’ or ‘Valencia’?”

I wonder, sometimes, if in my determination to preserve these memories, to save them from the passage of time, I dilute their power. Photos are filtered, captions added – sometimes dreamy, sometimes humorous, occasionally merely a string of emojis – but does this rob them of their authenticity, cloaking them in a haze of ‘Rise’ or ‘Valencia’?

I fear that as I move away from the moments that bring me joy I will forget them, the distance of time misting over once sharp recollections. Life is filled with so many precious experiences and who can blame us for wanting to capture them, to tie them tightly to our hearts with strings of images to evoke our reminiscences? More and more, however, I wonder if my attempts to cling to these occurrences for the future mean that I miss the opportunity to savour them in the present. It is time, I think, to stop viewing life through a lens and instead look with my own eyes, unfiltered. Life is more than a series of snapshots. It cannot be contained within a single image. It is tasted, touched, heard, smelt.  It needs to be felt, wholeheartedly embraced and savoured. It cannot be condensed into a split second, a souvenir of a mere sliver of the day. With time, these moments will still become echoes of times past. Surely this makes it all the more important to experience them fully in all their vibrant, chaotic, luscious reality? We are always moving forward, moving on. Instead of trying to force life into a frame, frozen in time, let’s pause ourselves and savour our experiences as we live them.


Amy Clarkin | @amyclarkin

Amy is a 27-year-old writer and film reviewer from Dublin. She can generally be found drinking coffee and reading, writing or watching stories.

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