Right before COVID-19, I bought my first disposable camera. I even gave a couple to my friends as a Christmas gift so we could capture the next summer together on film, hoping that our memories together would be preserved from each of our lenses. Needless to say, life didn’t exactly turn out that way, and those 26 pictures I had on that plastic camera lasted from my junior year of high school all the way through the beginning of my second semester at college. While I wait for my film to be developed, I’ve realized that my disposable camera has taught me something about how I see myself and my experiences.
Since starting college, I’ve noticed a trend in the way I view social media, particularly the pictures I see of others. While I’ve been on campus discovering my new city and all the new stresses that come with college, lots of other people I know have been out traveling, meeting tons of new friends and attending events that they post about immediately afterward. And while there’s nothing wrong with having fun things to post about, I sometimes can’t help but wonder if most of the fun only seems to count after taking the perfect picture to post while there. I’m someone who struggles with the “live in the moment” versus “take some pictures to remember this moment later” dilemma, and it's plagued me until I realized that it’s possible to do both.
The thing about disposable cameras is that you usually only get around 25 pieces of film to work with, and it’s impossible to know what your photo will look like until you develop the film. This way, you can’t spend all of your time taking and retaking pictures in order to find the perfect one to share; what’s more important is capturing the moment as it happens and moving on to live through the rest of it unencumbered. The picture might end up being overexposed or blurry, but that’s even more of an indication that you’ve captured a raw, real moment that’s worth remembering. Because you are limited to only a few pictures per camera, too, you have to be intentional about what memories you choose to save on film.
I’ve held onto my disposable camera for so long that I have no idea what I’ll see when I get my photos back, which makes it even more exciting to relive the unfiltered days I saved with my friends over the years that I may have forgotten about. I’ll be able to share how I saw the world with them all over again, all thanks to a little plastic camera.