Moving Between Worlds: Digital and Natural

Words and Photos by Libby Smith

Hi! I’m Libby and I am thrilled to be a part of the Quilt community. I am excited to share a bit about a personal project I created this past spring. The topic of social media is a conversation that often comes up in Quilt chats. 

Before I dive too deep, I want to note that I wrote and executed this project in a time of irritation with the effects of social media. Sometimes social media lifts us up. Sometimes it can feel like a burden. It's all an ebb & flow— and I chose to do this project at a time when I felt an urge to delete my Instagram. Over-use of the app as well as overthinking often makes me feel anxious and disconnected.

We are told that social media is a vessel for connection, yet we are unknowingly disconnecting—from each other, from ourselves, and from the natural world.

This photography project intends to capture the complex space that social media users occupy. Conversely, I also intend to capture a space beyond, one found in each of my subject’s present moment—in the places they feel connected. 

In my photos, I capture the places and spaces individuals feel whole and effortlessly themselves. I employed the camera to stir a meditative action, one that captured each of my subjects’ present—away from screens. During the production, I let my subjects be themselves. I let them manifest themselves in whatever way they chose. I photographed them as they were, in their act of doing what they love—in their act of being.


We forget that the fulfillment we are searching for lies in ourselves—and in the things we love. In this next image, my subject feels the most complete in the sea. I photographed her there, as she surfed with the tide, enveloped among water and sky. She reflected on her relationship to this space, telling me: “When I am in water, I can temporarily disconnect from the commotion and stress of our modern world. I can allow myself to be at harmony with my surroundings. I am in full connection with the dynamic natural system around me and within me.”


None of us spend all our time on romantic trips to exotic locations or sipping daily foamy lattes—photos that many laud on their Instagram profiles. None of us curate and crop ourselves as effectively in real life as we do on a screen. My photography project is meant to inspire the viewer to remember that there is an authentic way of being. When viewers engage with my photographs, I want them to feel, to know that they can be who they really are.


At the same time, social media can be and is a positive scheme of self expression. Quilt's #JourneyNotPerfection campaign is an example of the beauty of social media. By posting more of the difficult moments, the moments that reflect our lives in all its humanity, we may move towards embracing more accurate forms of expression. In the end, over-use of the app can be detrimental to our well being. When we align ourselves intentionally with the message we are putting out to our followers, we can find a healthy relationship. 

It's important to remember the importance of taking a break and deleting the apps that aren't serving your highest self. Let's get off screens more. Get outside more. Follow more of our passions. Let's follow whatever it is that speaks to our inner being. 

We will then realize we aren't missing anything found on a screen. 

We must let the world see us as our true selves. Let’s be real. Let’s be out in the natural world—in the moment.


Find the rest of the photos in the gallery below: