when hashtags become lifelines

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I’ve been shooting some film, but I haven’t felt the drive to get it developed. I had recent occasion to rent a beautiful digital camera and dreamy lens, and I had great fun playing with both in ways I found surprising – so different from the kind of photos I’d make with my go-to medium format or 1st runner-up 35mm cameras. There are images I’ve made recently with which I am happy, but I have felt no real desire to share any of them. I wonder if this ever happens to you in our over/ever-sharing times? Sometimes it seems to me the noise created by sharing photography becomes a sideshow distraction to the work of creating . . . except . . .

My lives online and as a photographer have developed hand-in-hand, and sharing photography has become my primary method of communicating with a companionable network of friends, far and wide. Whenever I feel a hermetic pull to step away from our rambling, amorphous, beautiful conversations by retreating from social media completely, I find myself missing something precious in my day-to-day life.

Quite by accident, I’ve found a sideline hashtag that has allowed me to stay engaged with my online network of photo-friends while I move through a more contemplative, less prolific image-sharing phase. I started using the hashtag #whereIwaswhenIfinished on instagram late last year to help record and remember what I’ve read, thinking that an image of a book cover in the place I was when I completed it might help me better recall plot and character down the road. It has.

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I don’t think much about the making of these photos. I just shoot the book cover on the surface of wherever I am at the moment I finish reading with my phone. If I’m in the mood and I’ve got something close at hand, I’m not above throwing a prop into the picture. A quick edit, and a post to instagram with a few words and then I move onto the next book on my never-ending to be read pile. That’s it. This series is an antithesis of what I think of as “my photography,” and that’s become it’s charm. Despite the fact that I’ve made little attempt at artfulness, once you get enough of anything together, it’s a collection, and collections and photography do go well together.

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Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

So in a year when I’ve been thinking more, shooting less, and feeling the need to pull back from social media, my hashtag has become a lifeline to my online photographic community. It’s provided me a way to keep my toe in the ig slipstream on my own terms  . . .  and it’s opened me up to a whole new world of bookstagrammers. But that’s a rabbit hole for another day.

You can follow my reading exploits anytime on instagram, where I’m damiec or post your own at the hashtag #whereiwaswhenifinished. I’d love to know what you’re reading this summer. Show or tell in the comments below.

Keep your eyes wide open,


  1. well, for starters, I love peeks at what other folks are reading 🙂

    and I really love this: “once you get enough of anything together, it’s a collection, and collections and photography do go well together.”
    it’s really as simple (and as beautiful) as that.

  2. I always look forward to your reading posts on IG. I have read a few books recommended by you. Thank you for sharing, Debbie.

  3. i’ve loved this series…!! and it’s so interesting to me how a hashtag can be the impetus behind a new project like yours.

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