Tumblr helps me to remember who I was
Someone who liked One Direction, VSCO, and "feminist-adjacent" messaging
Words freak me out sometimes. When I get stressed, I turn to images. That’s why I gravitate towards a discipline like Art History. The dark classroom shrouds students in a weighted blanket of anonymity. You’re finally free to speak your mind, about an image, an object, a portrait, or a political movement, that is. Rarely there is judgement; often there is a prompt for you to justify, but not much more than that. You are most beholden to your perspective of the image. Not your word. I like that.
This semester, I’m starting a design class where we’ve been given the instructions to read a passage and then “image-bank.” She sent us a poem to use.
The professor reminds us to “Save what catches your eye. Save what seems important.” The archive is key. As an acclaimed set and costume designer, she describes her libraries of art books at home. She turns to them for inspiration, but also out of necessity. Her work and her labor would not thrive without image. In fact, it would suffer.
My professor relies on the world view and perspective of others, sometimes depicted through garment, but most often conveyed through a camera lens to shed light on a problem. “Image-banking” is not only redemptive, it is a sort of problem solving. It’s an opportunity to make critical connections through what can be seen, something that our brains naturally do as we pass through space each day.
Before I knew the term “image banking,” it was a task that I indulged in with a curious consistency. Almost 10 years after starting my Tumblr, I continue to return to the website on a near-weekly basis…often haphazardly, in search of something I feel that I need in a particular moment. Its antiquated interface and slowed processing (mostly due to a deathly Yahoo acquisition years earlier) caused a brief hiatus three years ago, but more recently I’ve returned to the unsocial platform as an escape from the hypersurveillant nature of others. On Tumblr, users operate somewhat anonymously. Apart from a first name or age, individuals engage through username. I recently subscribed to a blog called perfectlyunripe — a meticulous homage to modern design. My friend just showed me a blog titled kombuchaenthusiast which is just another college student’s blog, but he posts unique takes about fashion and life in general.
Tumblr creates space for day to day musings, but more importantly it serves as a document of evolution. Providing an archive tab, the platform allows a user to scroll back to their blog from years before.
Masquerading as a time capsule, Tumblr has the potential to reveal slow and steady development of a person through aesthetics. Most of the time, with zero words.
Let me take you through mine. Dates included.
At the beginning of my blog, circa 2012, I was obsessed with preppy aesthetics. I think my preoccupation arrived swiftly with the new wave of “The British Invasion.”
After waiting in line for HOURS to meet One Direction in seventh grade, I was obsessed and in love, to say the least. On their first tour, 1D graced our shores with a look inspired by The Beatles but defined by the London-based retailer Jack Wills. When a Jack Wills store opened only ten minutes from my childhood home, I was enamored. Liberty London prints and wax jackets galore.
When I look at these, they scream “Vsco girl.” If I were to do some research, I bet these images surfaced on the internet with the emergence of the app VSCO (and much of the lukewarm editing that came with it). Clearly, I wanted to project an aura of being “cool” and “carefree.” The blues and whites are clean which I appreciate, but I cannot account for the horribly tacky red bikini on the right.
….. Apparently, THE KIDS ARE NOT ALRIGHT.
This, I cannot speak for. The images reading “Women,” “More Self Love,” and “GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS” are a clear response to the Trump Era if anything. I probably still followed The Wing on Instagram.
Overall, though, it’s a more Mediterranean-inspired color palette. This is interesting because I’ve never been to the Mediterranean, but evidently the year of 2018 made me want to escape there more than ever. Brightly colored fruit, bright blue seas, and decadent architecture — they all read as tokens of an easy, breezy, beautiful life. As an anxiety-ridden college freshman, this version of Tumblr allowed me to imagine myself out of the late nights of writing, studying, and overthinking.
The last section I’ll share is the most recent. I think this is the evidence of someone who has studied images for the past three years. I’m conscious, curatorial, and probably too selective at times. I like rich colors and deep prints. I like flowers and evidence of a strong culinary palette.
Instead of just reblogging what I see, I might stare at it a little too hard or look for a caption as to reveal the maker, photographer, or period. Nonetheless, my Tumblr in its current state serves as a tomb to what I like right now, in this moment, as I am about to press publish.
When I look at it two months or two years down the road, I’ll see that I reblogged images of loafers, flowers, and toasted sourdough. But, these specific images will be significant because they spoke to me as a 21 year old girl in a global pandemic.
Later on, I wonder what I’ll find them to really reveal.
Thank you for reading.
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