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Postcard of the Week: New York City (and musings on photo-editing and appreciating the here and now)

New York Harbour and the Statue of Liberty postcard

        This postcard of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour is pretty mesmerising. As much as I wish this could be an original, untouched photo, I find it hard to believe the moon would be so big and so visible among the city lights, and I assume the photographer has dabbled a fair bit in Photoshop to bring out these colours! Although I did learn to use Photoshop in my AS-Level Art at school, I no longer know how to use it, mainly because I haven’t forked out the hundreds of pounds to buy the software. Consider this professional (but edited) postcard above in comparison to a similar photo I took myself below (it’s a different angle but you get the gist).

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        But although I recognise why photographers post-edit (this postcard is a perfect example, it’s stunning!) is it not a little unfair on New York to so radically transform it’s look? Will foreigners receiving this postcard from a friend who’s travelled to the Big Apple, later be disappointed when they take a boat across New York Harbour for themselves, and realise it doesn’t quite look like this in real life? Is the world not beautiful enough already that we can portray it as it genuinely is? I can’t help but draw parallels to the airbrushing of models and celebrities in magazines for women and teenage girls. Everyone is aware by now of the detrimental effect these false images have on girls’ self-esteem and body image, often leading to a superficial obsession with outer beauty (rather than inner) and, in the worst of cases, provoking eating disorders and mental health problems.

        The doctoring of photos of women and of photos of travel destinations are clearly very different issues, the latter not having anywhere near the same importance. But what does seem apparent in this age of Instagram filters and photo editing apps is that we don’t seem to consider our surroundings beautiful enough just the way they are. If we can’t appreciate the beauty of the living world around us, and if we’re continuously tempted by untruthful but admittedly visually stunning images of the world, then how can we learn to love and be satisfied with the place we are in right now?

       At the moment I live in Madrid, a truly gorgeous city, but that doesn’t stop me from lusting after the odd photo that pops up on my Facebook News Feed of a travel destination elsewhere. This topic of satisfaction and appreciation for the ‘here and now’ preys on my mind a lot. I’m fully aware that I live firmly either in the future (planning upcoming trips, daydreaming about where my life is going) or in the past (nostalgically remembering ‘the good old days’ such as living in Italy or being a student in Exeter). I don’t give anywhere near enough attention to properly enjoying and making the most of the present, which is a problem I’d like to solve.

        What began as a blog post about a postcard from New York (which I picked up on my recent DTour of North America with DoubleTree by Hilton) has ended up taking a much more philosophical turn! If you’d actually like to read about the city, then head over to my blog post on my fabulous 3 days in New York City last October.

I’d like to know what you think about this – do you struggle like me to live in the present and appreciate the here and now? Does seeing incredible photos from around the world affect your satisfaction with the place you live in now, and give you wanderlust?

9 Comments »

  1. Loved this. I’m like you, I tend to live in nostalgia or daydream about upcoming plans – although it does depend where I am at the time (I don’t think I’d be daydreaming half as much if I was in the Galapagos or on the Great Wall of China, for example). Definitely still something I need to change, though.

    Photo manipulation is a massive problem when it comes to the image of girls, but I’ve never thought of it in terms of travel photos. It’s like we always have to try and enhance everything around us to look even better to others… funny really when the world – and women! – are beautiful regardless.

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  2. I have struggled many times with my photos that I put in my blog posts. I like to ‘enhance’ somewhat, especially if it’s a grey day or too dark to see the details. But I like you believe our world is beautiful without all the special effects that we can add. Your photo is much more natural and relatable than the one of the full moon above.

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    • I agree with you that the world is just beautiful enough as it is. But the problem now that everyone’s attention span is so short, above all on the internet, is that my own photo isn’t at all striking or attention-grabbing (it’s really not a good photo in my opinion). So it’s impossible to make a mark and come up with an original photo without resorting to a little editing. I’m sure there are photographers out there who manage it, but the sad truth is that most of the decent photos out there have probably been given a makeover!

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      • I agree with you. Society is dependent on quicker and more surreal….it follows in the movies. My cousin was a movie editor in L.A., but was phased out because everything is now so digital. His type aren’t wanted anymore. Sad but true…

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