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Blake Lively just reminded us of the art of an imperfect photo

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Anna Brech
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Blake Lively at Paris Fashion Week

It was meant to be a hilarious troll. But in an age of Insta-perfection, the outtake photos Ryan Reynolds shared of his wife Blake Lively this weekend hold an element of poignancy, too 

Remember the days when you collected your photos from Boots, and spent a few happy hours chortling over the results? At least two were guaranteed to be blurry, while a further few had you with your eyes closed, or a splotchy finger on the lens. 

Nowadays, of course, we can make every Insta-snap count. Taking a photo is a sometimes laborious process of edits and re-tries that we often joke about (“three thousand takes later”) – but nevertheless mostly play along with. 

The average Brit now spends 79 minutes a day editing holiday photos for Instagram, and a third of millennials believe posting social media pictures is as important as the escape itself. 

And, while travel snaps command hot capital on the Insta hierarchy, this quest for perfection doesn’t end on the beach. Instead, it spills out into a never-ending archive of family photos, interior shots and night-out selfies – all of which are which are rigorously self-censored.

So, all kudos to Blake Lively – or more specifically, her husband Ryan Reynolds – who shared a raft of imperfect photos of his wife to celebrate her 32nd birthday this weekend:

The couple, who are expecting their third child together, are famous for pranking one another on social media. And already, Reynold’s post has clocked up column inches devoted to the “unflattering” and “candid” photos – an affectionate attempt to “troll” the Gossip Girl star, say many. 

Whatever the intention behind the photos, the results are actually quite striking. As Reynold’s colleague, Deadpool director Rob Liefeld, quips in the comments, “There are no bad pictures of @blakelively”. But beyond being funny, the untimed snaps have an unexpected element of poignancy about them. 

It’s so unusual to see photos without the requisite polish of Instagram these days. It’s rare in Hollywood terms, yes, but also in real life. When was the last time you scrolled past an off-kilter photo on social media? Someone with their eyes closed, or their head cut off in the frame? 

Like all behavioural shifts, this drive towards self-editing has become so ingrained, it’s sometimes hard to grasp how much it has changed the world that we live in. It’s only when we see photos like this that we realise what we’re missing.

These so-called “bad” photos play an important role in our personal histories. They’re part of our narrative, and in their own way, they’re beautiful. But they’re being carefully airbrushed out of our lives; the result of a collective, and mostly subconscious, effort.

That young people, especially girls, are suffering under the guise of online “perfection” is no secret. Yet, as well as the obvious damage, these photos of Lively are a reminder of the subtler cost of nailing the perfect image – one that erodes a moment, and a story, beyond all its original meaning.

Main image: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.