I was one of the hundreds standing there at the Queens funeral procession about a week ago at the Royal Mile. Anyone who attended can probably recall the scene: hundreds of people packed together like sardines, standing on tiptoes, leaning on each other, blocking others’ view to catch a sight of Her Deceased Majesty, who ironically, was also packed like a sardine. As the marching soldiers who served to indicate her arrival began to come into view, the crowd around me raised their arms, phones in hand, videoing her transportation.
Now I’m not exactly a tall guy, 5’10 at the doctors (5’11 if you’re asking), but my already limited view of the event was further veiled with the elongated limbs of those waving their devices in front of my face. I even saw one person filming the crowd behind them by accident, (which I found pretty funny, so I gave them a little wave) I hope they kept the recording.
As the Royal coffin reached our area, I caved, and raised my phone high enough above the crowd to capture my own grainy image of history to memorialise my attendance. The image is… alright? I snapped a better video of the bagpipe players later which was a lot more fun. My image of the queen, however, serves a very odd place on my phone. There’s better photos from that day – not taken by me of course – of the procession, of the event, by people who were able to be much closer, by people who had more expensive equipment, by people who had longer arms and a much steadier hand. But that grainy photo of that moment in time is mine. It’s owned by me.
I have a hypocritical relationship to those who I see taking photos during events, or concerts, or nights out. The aggressive contrarian in me, who shares a surprising amount of views with technological illiterates, wants to say a phrase resembling “just live in the moment”. I want to remake and rephrase, to package a similar sentiment in a bow of originality, to convince myself above all else that I’m performing a virtue by sarcastically commenting on others taking pictures and uploading them onto social media, to hide my jealousy that I’m not in them.
Because, yeah. I could say something that attempts to be a Rayne Fisher-Quann knock-off, one that lacks her nuance or poetic touch, or I could drone on about how our memories and moments have become products to repeatedly consume in order to feed the pockets of social media conglomerates. However, I’m not really sure if I believe that.
I don’t think I am annoyed at any of that. Not really. In the same way I’m not annoyed at someone telling a story about their day, or Monet’s depiction of a pond, or a musicians melody. Is someone flailing their arm over my face with their electronic brick art? No. Well, Maybe?
In a similar way I feel an odd sense of attachment to the blurry, grainy photo of a deceased monarch. There’s a warmth in someone sharing a photo of the meal they cooked that day, the affection and their smile when they show me a photo of their partner, even a sense of pride as they show off a new outfit they wore in the week. It’s consumerist and at times performative, but it’s still them. It’s still me.
I look back on older photos of myself with a certain sense of nostalgia. The concerts I’ve attended, the days out with friends, the awkward unflattering smiles in photos I didn’t realise were being taken, sunsets I snapped because it was my favourite hue of orange, a funny looking rock, a sad looking dog, a video with people I don’t know anymore, a questionable shot of the moon and a blurry grainy image, of her deceased Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Maybe the contrarian in me has a point. Maybe I’m too indoctrinated. I don’t know. But they’re still my pictures, my memories and my phone. And I’ve decided that I’m ok with that.