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The Power of Pictures: A Social Scrapbook

There are always two people in every picture:  the photographer and the viewer. | Ansel Adams

I collect antique photographs. Old photos of strangers I have never met and have no familial ties to. I know nothing about their pasts. I don’t know their names or where they grew up. I can’t tell you their favorite foods or where they were born or buried. Despite the abundance of question marks punctuating their lives and stories, however, each photograph offers a doorway to the past; a split-second time warp, capturing a moment I wasn’t there to experience, but somehow feel connected to.

This weekend I watched NYC fireworks sitting atop the roof of a yellow taxicab. I met a pair of superhero dogs, dressed in patriotic superhero dog capes. I took a wild and windy ride on the back of a motorcycle. I cheered when a friend got engaged.

I wasn’t really there for any of it, but somehow I felt a part of it. All thanks to Instagram.

I recently stumbled across a blog post declaring Instagram “The Most Important Social Network I’ve Ever Used.” As a newbie to the iPhone world, it seemed like a grandiose and sweeping statement. Can a wordless social medium really connect people and start a conversation? And what, exactly, is the power of a picture?

In a word: storytelling.

Instagram (and photosharing) not only provide us with new and instantaneous ways to capture and preserve our stories and moments, they offer an outlet to illustrate our stories, too. We are creating social scrapbooks, and each photo has the potential to ignite sentiment, stories and conversation between the photographer and the viewer.

So what do we gain by tapping into our inner instartist? Some people suggest these apps are creativity and conversation catalysts with the power change the way we approach our everyday lives and world.

“Instagram is tapping into a creative yen that I did not know I possessed. I am starting to see the effects rippling through my everyday life. The desire to look for the unusual in the ordinary is beginning to permeate more and more of my thinking. There is a willingness to consider ideas that traditionally would have been way too out of the box for me. The act of looking at things in a different way is leading me think about things in a different way as well.” [full article here]

It's Tuesday. It feels like Monday. Most of us are back to work after a long (and hopefully happy) holiday weekend. We woke up this morning and went through the same routine we do each day of the week. We took the same route to work to return to the same office we inhabit 40+ hours a week. But somewhere along the way, I imagine we all bypassed something beautiful.

Maybe it's time to start seeing our same world differently. Today I'm challenging each of you to look at your day. Don't just look at it - really see it. And when you do, snap a picture and send it to me Let's practice the art of silent storytelling through the power of pictures.

UPDATE: Thanks to all our friends who submitted photos today. Tuesday was a truly beautiful day. We think you'll agree...