How am I looking?

You’d recognize your own face, wouldn’t you?
The one you see in the mirror every morning.

But what if there were no mirrors and nor had there ever been.
How could you be sure any image of you, was you?

For most of humanity, and through most of history, that was the norm. There were few mirrors and those there were, only the wealthy owned. Although you were intimately familiar with the faces of those you loved, you could never truly know your own face and what it looked like.

You can’t escape it now. Now, even as we are in semi-isolation with limited options, we are confronted by our unforgiving Zoom or other video calling platform faces staring back at us.

But, our relationship with images has never stayed the same; it is always changing.

The end of the old certainties

Imagine the reaction of the first audiences who experienced moving pictures. Yes, they would have been astonished, but they must have wondered where the old certainties had gone – the images they had previously known had fixed a moment forever – suddenly those images were shifting, shimmering, temporary things.

Images have become even more transient today now that we can create images at will. The world takes more photographs in two minutes than it took during the entire 1800s, an ease and immediacy that means our choice of subjects has also changed. It seems we no longer treasure images of people in the same way (in the 1960s, 55 percent of all photos were of babies), but favor events, with the selfie as both capture and climax. Being that is no longer enough; you have to be the center of things too. After all, who mails a postcard anymore?

Everyone has a smartphone and selfies are ubiquitous. Need to see what you look like near the Eiffel Tower? Point the phone at yourself, press a button and there you are with a famous landmark in the background that you can then post on social media for everyone to see.

Now that we’re in a period of great change – one of technology advances and lockdowns – we increasingly picture the world through images – sometimes exclusively through images. Our information, social interactions, businesses, entertainment, and love affairs all are conducted through their filter.

A breakthrough?

If this is not video calling’s business breakthrough moment, it’s hard to see when it will come. Circumstances have forced us to accommodate unplanned interruptions and awkward body language in our virtual meetings – and with that barrier crossed and far behind us, distrust around working from home is rapidly evaporating and will become more commonplace. There is unlikely to be any going back now, even when we do go back. Our relationship with the images that we create has changed once again.

For those of us in the wider image creation business, it is a timely reminder that when everything changes the future is rarely to be found in your own reflection.