Victoria Corinne Bracher is a 22 year old Ohio native living in Cleveland. She is kind of the reason, Emma and I met on Instagram all those years ago. We felt it was only proper for her to be our first feature.
This is the story she wanted to share
I had spent many of my high school lunches in the photo lab—rolling my own film, developing each roll, making prints—and so when I received an iPhone during my senior year, I was particularly excited to start taking as many photos whenever, wherever and under any conditions I wanted. I absolutely loved the process and reward of shooting and developing film, and I was always excited to share a successful print with those around me. To me, photography was not only about trapping the fluid and minute intricacies of time, but more broadly about silently explaining my interpretation of the world. It was an instantaneous way of saving and sharing perspective with those around me, but also with who I was to become. I was outspoken, and I often came off as abrasive and cynical as a teenager, but when I shared my photos, I was able to show the stillness I felt in each moment. All of that is to say I felt like I had to prove myself to everyone.
When I started using Instagram, I assimilated to whatever aesthetic was popular at that time (it was 2012, so vignette, saturation and fade reigned in my feed for the duration of that phase). I went into Instagram just hoping to prove I was important in some capacity. I had no intention of gaining an audience or curating in any way, but I definitely wanted to be liked. It was around 2013 during one of those Darling monthly challenges when I started curating with clean-cut images, maintaining a uniform and neutral palette throughout my feed. I started hash-tagging everything—I even went back and started tagging old photos so they would show up as the most recently tagged (this was before Instagram caught on to the trend and adjusted tags to dates). Some of my photos were featured multiple times on Darling’s feed, and I gained followers—people I did not know—which felt validating in a huge way for me. I thought “See? Someone on the other side of the country cares about me!” I became addicted to the emotional high I received from external validation.
I went to Portland, Oregon on a whim during January 2014, and on my last day, I met up with some more well known Instagrammers. I was intimidated by their perfectly L.L. Bean-meets-Nordstrom adventure-formal attire, and they were sweet to me during our time together. I flew back to Ohio thinking “Wow! I just made friends in another state! I be they’ll wanna be pen pals!” I had felt such companionship with them after such a short period of time, but I realized several weeks later, after writing one of them a note and sending a souvenir from Ohio and receiving a weak response that our interaction had been a series of surface exchanges. They probably weren’t so interested in me as a person, but more interested in the idea of “connecting” with someone and thus having a presence on another’s feed. I have since had a handful of encounters with other Instagrammers who seemed excited to meet, but our interactions fell flat. It was a bit of a wake-up call for me. People are so much more guarded in person than they are on Instagram, which seems backwards, in a way. The more I met with people who also had curated and uniform feeds, the more I realized that I am probably not being honest with myself. I had a lot of questions after my most recent meet up with people whose feeds I had admired for being so “perfect” and “carefree.”
At this point, it’s January 2016, I had around 2.5k followers, and I was feeling deeply offended every time I lost one. It was no longer fun for me. I noticed people in my real life were treating me differently, as well. I tried to find a balance by posting “less curated” photos to redeem myself with those around me who told me I was a different person online. I felt I had to negotiate being what this curating community expected of me and being who I really am. It is not fun for me to take and post photos of perfectly centered objects on white backgrounds. It never was. It took a long time for me to admit that to myself, that I was actually “doing it for the ‘gram.”
I deleted my Instagram and Facebook for the duration of summer 2016. It was deeply affecting my relationships. I was on my phone constantly, so I cut all of it out all at once. It was difficult for the first week, but after a while, it was refreshing to distance myself from a buzzing, intangible world over which I had no control. I got back on Instagram at the end of the summer, and deleted it again around the time I was going through an exceptionally difficult period in my life. But in these times away from Instagram, I learned a lot about myself. I wrote every single day, I played music for hours at a time. I took long walks without taking a single photo. I learned to capture a part of myself that didn’t visibly exist to the outside world.
If you go back on my feed about a year and a half ago and compare it to the content I post now, you will find images busy with light and color and laughter. I am happy with myself and my life, and I feel no need to prove anything to anyone. My perspective about myself and my life has changed, and I’ve come full circle, in a way. I try to live by the principle that every photo I take should be worth a frame on a roll of film. As I use Instagram now, it is important to me that I share photos of things I find, not things I look for—I’m not looking to create anything, I am creating instantaneously and constantly, taking photos with intention, but not taking photos for a purpose other than because I have found something worth saving.