There is something extremely distracting about a selfie. The tyranny of the selfie culture has, in fact, robbed us of the curiosity and surprise that photographs offered us till some years ago.

The selfie, as we all know it, is a manipulated image, padded with good side/bad side self-consciousness. There may be many locations, angles and contexts for selfies, but most show people widely smiling in them—selfies in other moods are singularly avoided.

Photography is so many things at once—a visual documentation, an art, a therapeutic device and an intriguing investigation into the human mood through facial expressions and the shine or emptiness of eyes. That’s why the smile—the obsessive focus of the selfie—makes a photograph rather a conservative and limiting tool.

I am no fan of the selfie. My cheapish phone, a Moto E, doesn’t even have a camera lens that can be flipped. Nevertheless, I noticed a heightened vanity in the requests I made this year to everyone and anyone to take my photographs whenever I wore something that I thought was interesting or was at a place I fancied as a great background. I “smiled" in every photograph. Recently, when I rearranged my mobile phone photos in a computer folder, I noticed this “conservative" recording of myself with a sense of loss and regret.

One of my goals for 2016 is to decrease my excessive reliance on the mobile phone and develop a pragmatic and limited relationship with it.

With that in mind, I decided to stop asking people to take my photographs even if somebody loaned me a queen’s jewels for a day.

To fuel my well-planned disgust for vain photographs, I dug out old family photo albums to understand my own life, and that of others, beyond the manipulated selfie smile. I went through a quarter century of images taken from the time my son was born to this month—across life’s sometimes effortful meandering to phases of terrific joy and through the flatness that existence acquires now and then. The result was more than cathartic.

Seen without cell phone-induced self-love, the photographs brought up incidents and memories that I had conveniently sidelined.

There were revelations that can only come from a therapist. I found reasons to heal a bit more when I looked at the photographs of my now dead parents in their younger days when they were at the peak of their lives and careers.

My regrets shrunk and acceptance of life’s inconsistent phases grew.

Most of all, I stumbled into an idea for a New Year gift for my son: to create a “Then and Now" photo album. I pasted two images on every page of an album made from recycled paper: one from his childhood or younger years and another from the past couple of years to the most recent—with the same theme. So, a photograph of a two-year-old boy wearing a black suit with a velvet bow goes on the same page as a photograph of the same boy as a 25-year-old lawyer wearing a black suit and tie.

With thematic similarities in mind, I plotted his life from his naming ceremony as an infant to the images he sent me from Washington DC, where he now studies.

I got numerous photo grabs taken on cell phones properly printed in a studio after a selection that took weeks. No selfies, not one.

As I selected and rejected photos, a narrative emerged in my mind. Memories are schizoid business, they leap up in jump cuts and blurs, they fade in and fade out, mixing dreams and nightmares, fears and fascination. If we allowed the past to consume us, the flashback would hardly be a progressively logical movie from year one onwards, methodically punctuated by birthday parties.

So, I rejected a predictable “order" of setting photographs. Instead, I adopted the slice of life as well as stream of consciousness literary devices to guide me in retelling a visual life story.

Childhood, school, teachers, mentors, friends lost and found, parents, grandparents, holidays—I made a wide selection with my son as the protagonist.

The Then and Now theme is alive and valid on every page except what I have marked as Turning Points, which work as milestones. After pasting these photographs, I wrote a prologue and an epilogue.

If nothing else, this album will surprise my son for the way in which the seemingly forgotten bits of his life have been pulled up to tell his story.

It may bring both a tear and a smile to his face. The album will outlive me, of course, but also, perhaps, most of the gifts he would have acquired over the years.

By banishing the selfie from the pack and allowing old-fashioned meanings of photography to steer me through a simple photo album, using an ordinary glue stick, I feel I have unglued many a sensory thought.

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