Nostalgic for the present

How HUJI enlightened me


At first, it was out of necessity. Generally speaking, I am not the most skilled within the realm of art. For this column, I include all things photography as being within this realm. I find it onerous and rather useless due to the fact that pictures are typically subject to my own editing error. Thus, HUJI Cam came as a blessing — salvaging my time and sparing the viewer’s undoubtedly pained eye.

I was enticed to download HUJI on my phone upon hearing it takes and edits pictures for you. It is true that HUJI has saved me a copious amount of wasted time now that I no longer lay in bed arbitrarily altering features such as brilliance and black point — terms I can’t even define. And though I may risk sounding trite, I would go as far to say that HUJI has given me a change in perspective — artistic/photography pun very much intended.

To start, the app ages pictures to render them with a polaroid-like aesthetic and assigns the date it was taken to the lower right-hand corner. Seeing this detail, I was struck with an ordinary idea to supplant the 1 Second Everyday recording app with HUJI  — a contributing factor to this thought being my residual bitterness from a few days prior when I found out the said video-recording app is not free.

It has now been a full month since I downloaded HUJI and took the first picture for my daily picture series. I should note that I had the flu and subsequently pneumonia. Consequently, there is a two-week stretch where intermittent days are missing from my catalog of photos. My immediate feeling amidst this time period was devastation. Not surprisingly, I was a mere three days into this project when I was struck ill and kept from documenting daily niceties. It should also be noted that I have recovered and that “devastation” here is used loosely.

But over the course of the month, I’ve contemplated this dedication of mine to something I am admittedly not good at. And then, I realized it’s not because I’m attempting to seriously pursue photography as an art form  — most of these pictures will never even leave my phone. Rather, what I’m pursuing is the easily forgettable  — the ungraceful and the unscripted. For example, I have pictures of friends from late nights in the White Spot  — their distinctly sweaty and matted hair warranting some degree of concern.

Others are just uncomfortable and unsmiling snapshots of people I go to the library with because most times it’s the most riveting part of my day. And some are the subtleties of Grounds, which make me happy and I take for granted just because I see them everyday, such as my grandfather’s room on East Range, the Ms. Pacman machine in 1515  — yes, I play this game almost daily, just without telling anyone  — and the faded white brick of the Randall Hall, which reminds me of the charm of the area surrounding my high school.

Ever since my first-year, I’ve had a self-awareness for the ephemerality of my time as an undergraduate student. Consequently I’ve taken up many modes of safekeeping my memories. Journalling was a demanding and short-lived experiment  — it turns out I would focus more on how well I was writing or on the syntaxical structure of my entries than the actual content— thus creating more of an essay than an account of a good memory. I also tended to journal most often when I wanted to complain about something, making my first-year journal appear rather dark. Other attempts were made at writing concise snippets of funny things that happened in the notes of my phone  — again, a short-lived endeavor.

The most likely culprit for my failure to document my experiences at the University through writing is my underlying fear for the inadequacy of words to reconstruct the specificities of what I’ve gone through. It’s an ironic stance as both a writer for this publication and an English major, but I’ve never found my writing capable of the type of preservation I’m looking for.

Given this dilemma, I would ideally just hire a scribe to follow and record my every move and have someone else’s words do the narrating. Tragically, my everyday happenings are not deserving of such exhaustive attention. So far, I’ve found HUJI to be the next best thing to hiring a personal scribe.

It’s similar to the notion that pictures are worth a thousand words  — though I hate to pull on such a Hallmark-like trope, I think it’s necessary to prove my point. I don’t have to grapple with the shortcomings of my vocabulary in order to recount something I want to remember, I can just take a picture of the moment instead. It was the polaroid effect applied to the photos I took with HUJI that first made me look on my present as already having a sense of nostalgia — it both makes my experiences look less recent than they really are but reassures me that they are being thoroughly archived. The app renewed my consciousness for the what is current will soon be dated and simultaneously gave me a medium through which to conserve that which is fleeting.

So, thanks to HUJI, I’m reminded how much I love it at the University, and I’m determined to remember what it feels like to be here. 

related stories