This picture bothers me. It's a really small detail. A subtlety that you could easily not 'see' but it's there. She is leaning back in an unnatural manner such that you break the spell. This is not a moment captured of a women enjoying the amazing view from her secluded spot on the beach. In my mind's eye, there is a traveling companion standing behind her, coaching her - lean back a bit more. A bit more... I need the full view of the candle in the shot. A bit more... it's a beautiful picture and I'm sure these are lovely people but that small bit of awkwardness takes me out of the beauty of the moment because it feels just that little bit staged. No one sits at that angle without supporting themselves with their hands.
I suspect it's a really difficult task to photograph the many #VanLife moments that you need to fill an Instagram feed. How many shots did these people take of the woman in that graceful yoga pose as the sun rises behind her? Standing ON the VW van, which from what I've seen in my not so extensive online search probably cost about 35k which seems sort of in contrast to the bohemian hippy, living in the moment, focused on healthy living vibe you are going for. I'm not sure your yoga practice is enhanced by rolling out the yoga mat on the roof of a vehicle but hey, I get it. Managing an Instagram feed IS hard work, especially if part of your 'travel the world in a van' includes a money making strategy that requires you to come up with endless beautiful content. It might be staged, but it doesn't commit what I am starting to consider the most abhorrent of sins, which is pretentiousness.
My current favorite example - although to be fair the massive overhead parking signs declaring THIS IS THE PARKING SPOT OF >NAME< VICE PRESIDENT is a strong candidate for the number two slot - is this quote from Architectural Digest, "... (person's name) calls her Portuguese getaway a 'selfish house' because it purposely has only two guest bedrooms." Honestly. That's what it says. And not only is this an actual quote from the home owner, it's in a call out on the page in what is probably 40 point font. I can't tell if this was the editor taking a shot at this incredibly pretentious person who in one short sentence has been able to so successfully communicate what a complete ass they are (let's just put this little gem front and center on the page so the world knows what we have to put up with in order to get access to these beautiful homes) or if they honestly felt that it captured the essence of design thinking that they wanted to convey.
I have been thinking a lot lately about how we create our reality. In its simplist form, you can think of two people interacting in the same environment with one person seeing things from a positive perspective and the other from a negative. The negative person frames what they see from that negative place - delays are problems, mistakes are intentional. Where the positive person sees the exact same inputs in a completely different light. They see a delay, but one that gives them time to finish that podcast. Or that mistake as unintentional and a moment to learn something new. Same world, different realities. I think what bothers me so much about pretentiousness is the lack of attention to what is being created for others. Prentious behavior is an overt effort to separate - to communicate a more privileged, a more entitled status, where you poor person who does not have a large sign declaring you are not just important enough to have a parking space but so important that we are emblazoning your name on it too so you get a name check as part of a place to rest your tires, are less important. What a thing to do - to actively create a reality that makes other people feel less important and valued.
Which is why this slightly staged Instagram photo, which broke the spell of being in that beautiful moment, is harmless. Yes, there is an active effort to create a moment that leaves the viewer wishing they could be there - but there is no ill intent. There is no inherent - I'm better than you - in a staged moment.