Harriet Brown

In Reflection

The problem with social media, I find, Isn’t looking at other people’s lives through a lens - I’m smart enough to know that everyone’s Instagram is a highlight reel - It’s looking at my own life.

These neat little squares in pockets of curated perfection - My main Instagram: a vessel to share my art - my private: to share my personal life with my friends - the band Instagrams I help run: to share their content with their fans.

If I’m honest, I don’t take much joy in looking at other people’s social media - I do it for my job and that is it generally. Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing what my friends are doing, but overall I prefer to be told when I see them, instead of living and breathing their lives through my iPhone 7 plus screen.

What I do, however, is pour over my own social media channels. Constantly.

I could pour over my stories and scroll up and down my feeds literally all day. I actually have done on some of my lower days.

I’ll lay on my bed, sit in my parked car, scroll on my lunch breaks. Always asking myself: Am I portraying myself accurately? Am I portraying myself flatteringly? Was my feed better last month? Was I prettier in December? I look happier here, am I that happy now?

Its mind numbing how much I care about my own life. Like, I am obsessed with myself - not in a narcissistic way - in the sense that the fear of missing out on my own life or forgetting anything is SO STRONG that It at times engulfs me.

I don’t think this is a problem that is only specific to me either. I can’t count how many times I’ve had a friend or colleague show me an old photo, punctuated with some kind of exclamation along the lines of “Look how much thinner/younger/thicker my hair/nicer my clothes/happier I was this time last month/year/whatever”

As I sit here I wonder, are we all that self-obsessed?

Before the powers that be (Mark Zucawhatever etc.) gave us the ability to seamlessly and constantly track our lives, would we of care? Of Course, I was thinner with fewer wrinkles 7 years ago - I was a teenager for christ’s sake - now I’m a 23-year-old ex-smoker with two full-time jobs - a caffeine addiction and a sprinkle of quite bad insomnia - obviously, I look more tired than I was when I was 16. It’s because I am.

For some reason, however, no matter how hyper-aware I am of the ridiculousness, irony and health risks of this obsessive self-critique through the medium of Instagram, I can’t stop. I’m so scared life is going to pass me by I am literally letting it by living my own life vicariously through my Instagram.

Maybe, those reading this will just laugh and agree - this is insane and I am insane. But I have a feeling this really is a problem that isn’t being addressed as much as it could/should be. The conversation about authenticity and representation online is amazing and thriving at the moment - we are all looking to question what we are being shown and acknowledge that what is online is never the entire picture of someone’s life. But are we asking the same questions to ourselves?

Sometimes I feel like I bask in how lovely my life looks online - I soak it in like some kind of elixir. I buy into my own sales pitch of how wonderful it all looks, and then become disconnected and distant from my own reality. It’s so easy to lust after the ‘better days’ of me I can find online. The thing is, these days weren’t better. I was still me - my personal struggles were still ongoing and my brain is still wired today the way it was last week.

I’ve always been an anxious wreck. I’ve always had depressive tendencies. I haven’t gone a night where I’ve been able to sleep in a bed on my own without a film or podcast playing in the background in literally 10 years.

The thing is though, online Harriet doesn’t have these problems. Online Harriet is backstage at some festival bar somewhere drinking a pretty cocktail in the sun and laughing loudly with her wonderfully talented friends. Online Harriet is always taking photos of bands and travelling the country. Her life is better than mine.

I don’t fully know the purpose of this piece. I guess, I feel that by sharing my own reality with you, that you - whoever you are - will, in turn, be less harsh on yourself for maybe not being the exact same person you are online or something.

But this is my reality: My name is Harriet Louise Brown, I grew up in North London, I take photos sometimes but I currently work in an office near Gatwick filling in online forms. I eat the same meal basically every day (It’s pasta and passata with herbs) because it’s all I can afford. I am in roughly £7000 worth of debt, not including my student loan. Sometimes I’m depressed and a lot of the time I’m anxious. I don’t text my friends for months at a time because my anxiety around texting is too bad to even maintain conversations a lot of the time. I listen to country music unironically and I love cats.

Don’t be so harsh on yourself for not always being the person you want to portray you are - I know I’m not. Don’t let yourself live your life in the third person, it’s insane.

Nostalgia is Scary.

Nostalgia is Scary.

The end of every year always makes you reminiscent of something. A friend said to me in the pub last night: “This season is always the time you re-kindle old flames because the cold just makes you nostalgic” 

I guess he’s right, the cold does seem to bring out a form of reminiscent nostalgia in lots of people. We love looking back with rose tinted glasses firmly affixed to our eyes, especially when the weather is shitty, money is tight and theirs not much else to do.  

This year I have found looking back extremely difficult, not because my year was bad, but because it was good. The summer seemed to sprawl on. Every festival, every beer garden, every long sweaty drive in a badly air-conditioned van, seems now - in my mind - to be coated with a gold hue. Good old rose tinted glasses.

When you’re flying so high, the world feels like its yours for the taking… its a long fall back down. 

I finally left London at the start of Autumn, after a long and complex 22 year relationship with the city. I would like to say it was a bitter sweet decision but in all honesty it wasn’t and, even though I miss the people, I haven’t missed the city. Being a creative, flying the nest for the first time, however, is fucking terrifying. 

After a summer of feeling like a completely unstoppable powerhouse of creativity, I got to my new home and quickly realised the following: Being a music photographer when the only other thing you have to worry about is uni may be a bit of a juggling act, however, being a music photographer in a world of rent, bills and needing to afford to eat, is like trying to climb up the side of a cliff - unassisted - while continuing to juggle. 

This year I have gone from not being able to see a future where I wouldn’t be shooting full time; living my ‘best life’ in neat 4 x 4 squares, for the world to see. To not being able to see a future where shooting full time is currently a realistic option for me.

This brings me back to my point. Nostalgia is Scary. Gluing my rose tinted glasses firmly back onto my eyes and imagining the past year like some kind of teen movie highlight reel, is a form of escapism I cant afford right now. The longer I wear my rose tinted glasses the greyer the world looks when I take them off. So, for now, my glasses will be folded away and tucked in a drawer until its time for me to reminisce on my first few months in Brighton and the amazing world that has opened up for me since I moved here. 

This isn’t a goodbye letter to photography by any means, I’m still here and will always be creating in some way. This is, for me, an acceptance letter to myself, reminding me that I need to be more realistic and honest with my goals and how I’m going to achieve them. While things are maybe going to be a bit different than originally planned, I think thats ok. 

Even though I am in a creative slump, this New Year I’m going to sit on the beach and, instead of looking back, I’m going to look at what’s right in front of me.

Anyway here is a bunch of pictures from the year in a vaugely chronological order (because I don’t take my own advice and looked back anyway)

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