Ten years ago, it would have seen a very different picture.
People congregating to admire perhaps the greatest President – the saviour of the Union. Or, maybe they would be amassing merely to gaze upon the art; the fine alabaster sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, cosseted in a columnar temple looking out to Capitol Hill.
Except now, more than half of these people are facing the wrong way. At least, facing the wrong way to look directly at the statue.
For now, unlike a decade ago, the adopted mode of recording your presence is the ‘selfie’. And so, half of the people are looking away, beaming at their mobile, posing, pointing, pulling all manner of faces. Alone, or with companions peering over an appropriately framed shoulder.
It’s an odd sight. Half looking towards, half looking away.
Maybe the ‘selfie’ posture accurately reflects the passing of time? The past appropriately behind us, looking back. As if looking in a mirror at what has gone before, whilst our bodies, and eyes, face out to the future?
There was a time we recorded photographically the thing, the place, the view. However, it seems to me that instead, in this ‘selfie’ age, what matters most is the subject in the foreground. The self. Me. I. The grinning, posing photograph taker. I am, in this moment, more significant than the history that preceded me. More relevant than the beautiful scenery behind me. More important that the place, the environment, the location.
We share these pictures to showcase first and foremost our expressions, our poses, our facial creativity, our friends, not to show off the backdrop.
I wonder what metaphor this is, for our future? Not observing the wonder around us. Instead, the preoccupation with looking at ourselves. Not deeply. Not into our soul, or our very being. But looking at our superficial, surface selves. Sharing these with others. Competing with others. Even now, we photoshop them with filters. To remove reality. To remove blemishes.
Maybe we need to face reality again? Maybe we should turn around more?
Maybe that would be a decision on the scale of those Abraham Lincoln once took?