Telling Stories

I've started using Tumblr more lately. Or, well, at all, which is a start. Tumblr is a thing, like a scene maybe, or a band, that I keep meaning to get into, and never really do. Not that long ago, a little over a year ago, we went to the Tumblr offices. We took a cab from Chelsea I think; it was near Christmas and the pianist in the lobby was playing "Feliz Navidad", and we set up camp in their office, which was just a big room, and ate sandwiches. And Ben and Xander who always get stuff about a year before I do were all excited about it and I thought it was a sort of cool blogging thing but I didn't really get it. And look, now Tumblr is this Huge Deal. And I have posted a total of 26 times in the last year and one of them was by mistake. But anyway I'm using it now, a bit. And at first it was just because I had all these tabs on my browser open, with articles I wanted to take excerpts from or images I thought were pretty, and I remembered that I did actually have a repository for those sorts of things. But then I got distracted by all the blogs that girls have where they post (or rather, re-post) photos that they didn't actually take of the insides of other people's houses or pretty leather boots or women in very high heels on a Paris street. It's weird, if you think about it; it's intensely impersonal, and almost obsessively voyeuristic - like peering into someone's window from someone else's house through someone else's binoculars. But I like it. I like these attempts to collect - or perhaps to collate? - beauty. I like the idea that a blog can be something as simple as a sequence of images that did not start out belonging to you but now, because you have put them together, are yours.

I guess I like this because it makes me re-think content. Or, rather, creation of content. What does it take to create something? Sometimes years, and great difficulty. Sometimes just a change of context, a new juxtaposition.

And so it became about fragments. Like a scrapbook, a little girl's collection of cut-out images.

And one day, I saw this image. It captured my attention. Lots of things had captured my attention already, but this was the first time it felt totally irrational. All of these things that I was collecting, these images, these images of gardens or bookshelves or laughing girls: what did they mean? What does the girl, sitting on a picnic blanket, eating an apple, laughing in her tweed vest and blue shirt and jeans, mean? To me? To anyone?

The simple answer is nothing. She's a catalogue girl, the image is from J.Crew. I was surprised to find this did not deflate me. So it isn't really a consumer impulse, necessarily. We know that even if we were to buy everything she is wearing, recreate the scene exactly, hold the apple, hide a smile behind a hand, we would not feel the way that looking at the image makes us feel we would feel. We would not look just like her; the moment would not be the same. The moment can not be recreated because it has not been created in the first place. It is utterly artificial, but in a sort of wonderful way: in the way that allows us to see whatever we like in it, whatever possibility or story or situation we think fits it.

So this sort of voyeuristic digital scrapbooking is really just another way of telling stories.