Sitting with a friend last weekend, I took him through my memories of my visit to Zanzibar, using the photos stored on my phone. He saw the shots of the moment after I received a gift from my old friend and colleague, Farouque Abdela and he commented on how prim and proper I appeared in those snaps. I explained to him that they were taken by another friend who was just getting to know me at that point in time. The person behind the camera didn’t really have a good sense of my personality or character traits at that point in our friendship.
The friend looking at the pictures wasn’t having it. He seemed to suggest that there was something amiss about the way I came across in those photos. In any case, I showed him others that I took of myself, along with some of the folks I met. He was happier with what he saw in my selfies.
I have come to realise that photos say more about the observer than the person being observed, a lot of the time. It makes sense that self portraits should communicate something valuable, because in most situations a person knows his or her self more than anyone else.
I showed my friend in London more shots that were taken by the same observer after he had spent a considerable amount of time with me. There was a marked difference in the impressions he had of me at that point in our friendship.
Nowadays, it is hard to tell whether photos have been tampered with before they are circulated. If we can all accept that our perceptions of each other are subjective, would that make a difference to the way we empathise with our fellow humans in the widest possible sense?