I love taking polaroid photos. I’m always the friend who groups everyone together at the end of dinner, blinding the other customers with a flash. The boxy black camera has been lugged along with me to the beach, the woods, Disney World and holidays.
I love taking polaroids because you have no time to think. Digital mediums offer thousands of chances to primp and correct, checking your phone between shots, adjusting your pose until you are satisfied. Polaroids don’t allow that kind of self-editing. The snapshot is a point, not a pattern. One distilled, concentrated drop of life, undiluted by self-consciousness. Polaroids deal in moments.
Escaping the self-editing every once in awhile is healthy. Casting off the pursuit of the perfect Instagram liberates us from the pursuit of perfection itself. Some of my favorite polaroids show the rolls of flesh around my stomach. Others show the wide smiles of loved ones with crooked teeth, or the windblown hair of a girl who is constantly fixing her ponytail. They are beautiful because we are happy.
I have many polaroids of my grandmother. They show a broken hip, some teeth that went missing mysteriously, hair that faded from a rich brown to ash to grey. A few persistent bouts with the flu and pneumonia. These pictures of her are not perfect. But I love them so much because they capture her in that moment. The physical toll of 92 years is on display, but so is the fiercely independent way in which she grips her walker, refusing assistance. So are her eyes, which are still beautiful and piercing. When I see my grandmother’s open mouth in a polaroid, I can hear her gravelly, self-assured voice singing hymns — she can’t always remember who I am, but she never forgets a single word.
I have many polaroids of my family, and even more of my friends. Some of the greatest friends I’ve made have been in CisternYard Media. They taught me how to write and how to hold my liquor. We’ve danced together and laughed hard and worked in silence, and enjoyed them all the same. We’ve travelled together and done more than one questionable dare together. We have lived together. We have made dozens of issues of The Yard together, and our magazine has tackled its fair share of contentious topics in past issues.
What we offer here is a polaroid. Just intimate, joyful celebrations — and quiet reflections — on the moments that have made up our lives. Our date nights. Our friendships. Our college careers. Our questioning conversations that ran long into the night. This issue, like a polaroid, is a glorification of living. The imperfections and the triumphs are all mixed together, like the disparate ingredients of batter transforming into cake.
This is us, as we are, right now.
*This article first appeared in the April 2017 issue of The Yard.