Step Away From the Camera/Pick Up the Camera

I’m about to speak out of both sides of my (metaphorical) mouth.

First, I’m going to jump on the “cameras are ruining everything!” bandwagon. Then I’m going to step off it. OK? Ok.

Step Away From the Camera

There have been a proliferation of “articles” and videos about how people aren’t experiencing life anymore, how even live concerts are viewed through the screen of an iPhone and how that’s horribly annoying. Here’s the most recent one I’ve seen.

This article talks about a study that found that the act of taking a picture impedes memory. Basically, by choosing to take a picture instead of just soaking up the moment, that you deprive yourself of the moment.

My first reaction was “Omigosh, yes!”

When I went to the Grand Canyon, I was stunned. I mean, I figured I was prepared: I’d seen lots of images of the canyon before. But when I got there and saw it for myself, in person… I cried. It was a really powerful moment. The wonder of nature and God and the incredible feeling of being so small in the face of something so huge and incredible and old… it literally took my breath away. One day, I tried to capture that sense and the sun sliding down the canyon, to bring home the wonder of that sunset.

And it completely did not work. Photographs just do not contain that kind of depth (I don’t know, maybe Ansel Adams could have done it, but not me and my dinky tourist camera). I envied the woman I met who was fast-painting the scene in watercolors. That image got much closer. Plus she was doing something pretty incredible.

I’m getting married soon (oh my gosh, so soon),  and therefore reading a bunch of wedding blogs. One was so trollish that I still struggle to believe it was real: it was about how “rude” it was for the bride and groom to request that guests don’t take pictures during the ceremony. It was, hilariously, demolished by the commentors, who poked right through the argument.

And I agree with those folks: it’s so frustrating to see people actively missing this big moment because they are so busy trying to “catch” it. Plus I’m spending a bunch of money on an impartial professional photographer to get those photos, anyway.

But then again…

Pick Up the Camera
I saw this video just before I was going to write this post, and it changed my mind…somewhat.

First, it’s adorable. Second, I hate this guy, for making my life seem so crappy in comparison and being so methodical about his planning. Third, it is a great way to have captured 4 years of his travels.

And that is the upside to the camera. So long as we don’t live behind it–or vicariously through it–it can bring us back to those incredible moments. I know my photos of the Grand Canyon don’t really capture the grandeur of it, but I remember the trip when I look at it. I can imagine myself back there under the sun and I can practically taste the wind. The photos make the memory more vivid. They ground us, give us a sense of space and time and history. For some of us, like my grandfather, they are literal doorways to memories.

So pick up the camera. Do capture your life. But remember to live it, too.

And maybe take a few trips, like the proposal guy there. Me, I’m going to Jamaica.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Step Away From the Camera/Pick Up the Camera

  1. And don’t ruin the moment for others by being a photo-nazi, either by shoving others out of the way so you can get the perfect angle for your photo, blocking their view of the beautiful bride/concert stage with your iPad, or making you loved ones pose endlessly while you take the same photo over and over because you just can’t find the exposure setting that works for you.

  2. Exactly! It’s like you’ve experienced this problem, too! 😉

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