Original Caption on Instagram: Dry creek bridge
Correct Caption: Dry Canyon Creek Bridge
With this project, I struggle with how much “me” to put in… Primarily, I focus on the history and locations of the HCRH and this is where I’d like to keep it for the most part. Because of this, I’ve avoided talking much about my process, except for the occasional posts on the direction of this project or posts about taking short breaks here and there while I work on other jobs or when I need to focus on my family for awhile.
However, something has been bugging me this morning… I’ve been having an internal debate about the Instragram posts I’ve been sharing for the last few months.
These photos are really nothing more than “selfies” without the self. Quick shots with my phone that I capture, caption, and post from the field when I am out exploring and scouting the old highway. Because of this, the quality is not what I usually aim for with my photos and the captions are short, vague and sometimes a little off.
One of the things I pride myself on as a writer, historian and journalist is accuracy. I am human, so I do make mistakes, but I feel that I do a pretty good job with this, overall. If I am uncertain about something, I try to make that clear. If something I post is pure speculation, I try to note that as well.
My project is not the only one out there working on covering this material right now, and what I bring to the table that others do not, beyond a passion for the subject matter, is the sheer number of hours I am putting into this, literally years of my life are going into this project. Some of it out in the field bushwhacking through ticks, spiders, snakes, and poison oak, some of it pouring through thousands of pages of books, documents, maps, and other sources.
In the end, I really believe that this is what makes my project stand out from any of the others that will be coming along over the next couple years as we head into the Centennial of the highway.
However, when I am posting these quick and dirty phone photos, I am not always in a position to double check my typing, to check my notes, or to write detailed explanations of what I am presenting. Sometimes the situations are a little uncomfortable, as well. On the Mitchell Point Wagon Road, I posted from a precarious perch on an unstable rock slide where one bad move would have been disastrous. Yesterday, when I took and mis-captioned the photo above, the wind was blowing so hard that I was concerned that I might actually be blown into the canyon below if I stood too close (silly, I know, but it was nasty out there), and I wanted to get back to the car as quickly as possible (thanks to Jeanette Kloos for catching and correcting the error!). Later, when I posted a photo of the remains of the Lewis & Clark Monument in The Dalles, I had a belligerent homeless man yelling at me because he thought I was taking pictures of his friends without their permission while I was writing the caption (hence the typo).
I am not trying to be overdramatic, it’s not like I am posting from a war zone or a natural disaster or 2000 feet up the face of El Capitan… But some environments are more distracting than others.
Original Caption on Instagram: Remains of the Lewis and Clark mMonument
So here is my debate… If these Instagram posts have the potential to give people a negative view of my work, of my skills and accuracy, should I continue posting them?
The con side: If it is not my best work and if it is not always completely accurate, I fear that I am at risk of giving people the impression that I don’t know what I am doing or have no knowledge of what I am writing about. That really scares me on a project like this one, where I am investing years of my life into detailed research so my material, first and foremost, can be relied upon to be well documented, cited, and accurate.
So if my Instagram posts open the door for my credibility to be damaged in any way, it really worries me.
The pro side: People seem to enjoy and respond to these photos, which is nice, and I think it is kind of fun to have this sort of real-time interaction on the Facebook page. It would be amazing, at some point, for someone to pop on and say, “Hey, I’ve been curious about something, can you go check it out?” while I was actually on site in the field.
Also, it can take up to a year or more for me to actually get the material I shoot edited and posted to the website, so it is a way for me to share some of the sights of these locations and segments now, since it may be quite awhile before the real images off the good cameras ever see the light of day.
I am not sure how I will proceed from here out with this. I do like posting those pictures, so I may do it just for that reason. When I am putting this much of my time into something, I feel it is perfectly acceptable to include a few things just because I enjoy it, as long as it doesn’t threaten the project as a whole.