Dear Queer Diary: Picture This

Dear Queer Diary_Rory Midhani_640px

My stuffed rabbit has no fingers, which makes it nearly impossible for her to keep a conventional journal. However, on certain occasions in both her young life and mine, she has had great success with photo diaries, asking her human friends to snap photos of her as she engages in exciting activities such as eating carrots and taking a hop around the neighborhood.

Although no photos from the original diary survive on my present computer, I can offer you this fantastic shot of Bunby on the open road.

Although no photos from the original diary survive on my present computer, I can offer you this fantastic shot of Bunby on the open road.

Of course, the photo diary is equally loved by creatures with fingers — it’s often used by journalists, such as in this depiction of Ramadan currently running in the national paper of the United Arab Emirates, and it was, obviously, a favorite of high school girls everywhere back in the golden days of the middle 2000s.

Although I have never kept a complete photo diary myself, I am keen to start one, especially in this age of constantly accessible cell phone cameras. I have a secret love of scrolling back through my Instagram feed, and the idea of a photo journal seems like it would be even better — a truer reflection of each day, unfiltered by LoFi or my desire to look cool to my seven or eight followers.

This photo journal looks cool without even trying. (Via m. napper)

This photo journal looks cool without even trying. (Via m. napper)

What does one document in such a journal? A wee bit of research has taught me that things that are growing and changing rapidly make for particularly enthralling photo journals—newborns/puppies/kittens are classics, but I can imagine a beautiful little photo diary of your succulent garden too! On an even more awesomely queer note, Against Me! frontwoman, Trans 100 member, and future online reality show star Laura Jane Grace kept a photo diary of her transition.

(Via Cosmo)

(Via Cosmo)

As in all things journaling, with the photo diary, there’s the age-old question of analog versus digital. Personally, I’m torn. While I truly appreciate the tactile pleasures of paging through each day of a photo diary, at the same time, I like the idea of my carefully assembled images staying safe in the unlikely event that I set the apartment on fire trying to make quesadillas.

If you have the time/energy/cash moola to print your photos out and craft them into beautiful books, there are a million and five beautiful ways you might arrange them — scotch taping them into your word-filled journal in a thoroughly old-school manner or creating nicely captioned photo albums to show off to anyone and everyone who sets foot in your living room.

This photo is making me want to wear nail polish for the first time since 2011. (Via Making Nice in the Midwest)

This photo is making me want to wear nail polish for the first time since 2011. (Via Making Nice in the Midwest)

Conversely, if you phone is of the too-smart-for-its-own-good variety, you might be inclined to take a gander at some photo diary apps that will help you compile your images. Collect, which is free for iPhone, encourages you to caption photos and arranges them in an aesthetically pleasing calendar format. From there, you can view and/or export them, and ultimately print them if you are so inclined. I am particularly intrigued by the possibility of creating multiple diaries focused on different subjects—imagine one devoted to your breakfasts! The tree outside your front door! Your beautiful face! Your girlfriend’s beautiful face!

Check out that attractive font. (Via Collect)

Check out that attractive font. (Via Collect)

You may have already read about the TED talk smartypants who decided to document his life by taking one second of video every day and editing it all together into one crazy video—now, he’s got an app, so you can do it too.

Gimicky as all this may seem, the photo (or video) diary operates on the same principle at the good ol’ pen and paper diary—remember, the word comes from the Latin root for “day.” Whether I choose to document my day in words or images, I believe that the act of documenting allows me notice things I wouldn’t otherwise notice, appreciate things I might otherwise take for granted, and remember things I might otherwise forget. Cheesy, yes. But I love cheese.

Case in point: a recent cheese plate chez moi.

Case in point: a recent cheese plate chez moi.

Have you ever kept a photo journal? If you had to pick an image to sum up your day, what would it be of? Or are you too busy snapping photos to leave a comment?

Dear Queer Diary is a column about the joys (and occasionally, the pains) of journaling. We crack open our tiny notebooks and break out the rainbow-colored pens on the regular, so get ready to limber up your writing hands and document all your beautiful feelings!

Header by Rory Midhani

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Maggie is a freckly, punctuation-loving queer living in the Boston area. She supports her book-buying and tea-drinking habits by teaching America’s youth how to write topic sentences and spends her free time writing postcards and making sandwiches for her girlfriend.

Maggie has written 53 articles for us.


  1. I have taken one complete photo-a-day (for a year) diary and I am in the process of taking a second.

    My first was between my seventeenth and eighteenth birthdays. Originally, painstakingly, posted on a flocked LJ account, the whole thing is now just on Dropbox (here, if you’re that curious) because I don’t live there any more. I like looking back at it, because it reminds me of some things I used to love to do that I lost along the way. Maybe I should start drawing again? So many of those photos are of my doodles…

    Currently in progress, goodbye 25 (yes, from the Veruca Salt song, “Awesome”) is from my twenty fifth birthday to my twenty sixth, updated when I remember to do it but photos taken daily.

    My only regret is that I didn’t take a photo-a-day diary during undergrad to document that, too.

  2. “in the unlikely event that I set the apartment on fire trying to make quesadillas.”


    I love this post because of that. But also because I like the idea of a digital photo album going along with my own journal and never thought of the merits of actually doing so. Downloading that app right meow. Thank you!

  3. oohh i love this idea, a picture says a thousand words and considering how lazy i can be about writing in my diary this could really help do that and it includes my love of photography, what a fantastic idea. but printing out a picture or two everyday sounds like it could be expensive, i think i’ll have to look for an app on my windows phone, i don’t know if collect is available for them

  4. Just saw someone on tumblr post a picture of keeping a lipstick diary? Brilliant idea. The variations on visual diaries are endless – I might screenshot a song I listen to every day on my phone to get a visual record of that

  5. I bought a Polaroid blue tooth printer that,once paired, you could print off stickers of your photos with…sadly it didn’t work with iPhone. But it was brilliant. I documented so much work at college that way and it would be cool to document life the same way. Having both physical and digital images was handy. Missus and I are using an instax mini Polaroid to take pics of our road trips and journal them as we go. It’s fun, instantaneous and sadly not cheap! I really believe in having a physical copy of photos. Love me some instagram tho.

  6. I posted a photo of my new bra on tumblr today because I wanted to complain about the tiny rhinestone thing sewn to it, and for my efforts I got followed by a weird lingerie blog probably not run by a real person. (I snipped the rhinestone off immediately after documenting its ridiculousness.)

    in all seriousness though, this is a good topic. I’m working on being better about taking photos so I have visual proof of the goings on of my life. maybe a photo journal of some sort would be a good idea.

  7. I truly love this series! Great post! I’ve used Instagram to catalog my haunts around town and also the things I see every work day (in attempts to battle the monotony of a 9-5 office job). Now you’ve got me thinking more creatively about journaling!

  8. You continue to inspire me, this series is changing my life :^) I just got the 1 second a day app, I’m excited to get it started!

  9. I got the Collect app and I really love it. Even if I didn’t do something very interesting, it reminds me to update. “New tea” or “awesome dinner” just reminds of the little things in my day.

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