Doing it for the Gram
Anybody alive in 2017 with access to a internet-waffled device knows that it is the ultimate call and duty of their privileged position to “do it for the gram,” Instagram that is. Now, “it” could be anything, literally anything. You could be recreating a Michael Jackson move in a parking lot, reciting the Qur’an backwards, body contorting to a poetry podcast, or lifting a fifty-pound object with your eyebrows; any of these events – which have all happened – can be undertaken, so long as you do it for the gram.
Doing it for the gram means photographing or recording yourself doing anything for the princely benefit of tenured, spell-bound scattered audiences from Sydney to Caracas to Maryland. As a photographer, I love Instagram and the ability it gives me to tell the visual stories of the families and military members I photograph. But there is a difference between a funny snapshot moment and the solemnity of a person donning his or her uniform - although I’ve encountered some intense, well-done captures of cadets donning uniforms as crisp lining drying on a sun-warmed line.
Now, these military men and women were not doing it for the gram, but the images I just described enamor because when a person is not doing a thing for the gram, other motivations are allowed to shine. Motivations like patriotism, pride, duty, dedication and honor – things you cannot touch but which can extend and touch you from the safety of a professionally done portrait.
A military graduation is no small event. It is a grand occasion where your eyes burn with the embers of patriotism, your shoulders are kept erect by the culture of training, your legs are clenched, you inhale air that is thick with honor, the rigor of the landscape of your face transmits your new devotion, the realization that there are not enough colorful ribbons in the world to reliably demonstrate the intensity your feel.
It is not a small event. Not for you, your friends or family. The enormity of the occasion is the precise thing that shrinks your person on the day and this natural order cannot be reversed by any number of wayward lightnings from the best smart phone pic manned by the cutest family member.
A military graduation is no small event because there are not many forums to do anything today publicly where you won’t be “doing it for the gram.” This is why it is worth everything to freeze the memory of this special, dignified occasion into enduring images only capture in a professional portrait.