Rosario Krusmark poses at the pop-up Instagram museum in Denver, Col­orado. Sofia Krusmark | Col­legian

A pop-up pho­tog­raphy museum taught me a simple lesson: Photos impress mem­ories on our hearts. It’s only when we use them to impress people that they become too shallow to savor. In a basement in downtown Denver is the Instagram Selfie Museum. My mom and I strolled down a set of stairs and walked into an Instagram pop-up museum expe­rience. We had an hour to take photos of each other in this kalei­do­scope world the museum had set up. Where other museums limit pho­tog­raphy, this one was cen­tered on it. At the end of our hour, it was someone else’s turn. 

Each back­ground carried a story, but each was an unwritten page in a book. I was invited to be the author.

The swirled black-and-white wall invited me to turn around and wonder at a blurry horizon. Hun­dreds of roses were pinned to another wall, and around the corner was like another world,  where we could lay in a field of flowers, without a care in sight.

There were 3D options, too. We jumped in a tub of silver, white, and pink balls, and our smiles were lost under a silicon won­derland. A pair of chop­sticks, taller than me, were up for grabs: With a giant piece of sushi in her hand, my mom pushed it into the chop­sticks and pre­tended to indulge in the biggest piece of sushi she’d ever eaten.

But these built-up back­grounds, however super­ficial they may seem, reminded me of all the real-life places we take pic­tures  — the places where we grow the most, the places where we laugh the hardest, or the places that we describe as our favorite place in the world. Photos keep these places alive. 

Maybe we just take a picture of the back­ground itself and think fondly of the mem­ories we made there. A picture of the coffee shop where we had a cup of tea with our grandma, or the moun­tains where you expe­ri­enced freedom.

Or maybe, it means looking at a photo of you and your friends taken in an empty alley. Whether or not these places were sig­nif­icant in them­selves, we made them sig­nif­icant by the photos we took there — and we’ll always remember that.

Sure, our culture has gotten lost in the momentum of snapping a photo, posting it on social media, and then finding the next back­ground that’ll rack up the likes, making their friends jealous. We do it again and again, we already know that. 

But if we took photos simply for our own sake —  for the sake of rem­i­niscing on these sweet mem­ories, and passing them on to our loved ones, we wouldn’t have to neglect all pho­tog­raphy in order to live in the moment. 

Remember the photos that your grandma pulls out from her closet, the dusty ones, the ones that some­times bring a tear to her eye?  “I remember when,” she says — and passes on the story to the next gen­er­ation. The picture reminds her of the story. Maybe that’s why it means so much.  

I’m a culprit of getting caught up in Instagram culture. But three weeks later, I still look fondly of the pic­tures of my mom and I in front of those ridiculous back­grounds, and I’m fond of them because of the mem­ories they bring with them.

Maybe one day I’ll pull them out of my closet, dust them off, and tell my grandkids about that memory.

It’ll be a good story.