Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Please Stop Taking Pictures, Please

Too many people are taking too many photographs.

I blame the digital revolution--in which data storage has become geometrically cheaper each year, thereby enabling more and more photos to be taken with better and better resolution at almost no cost except the purchase of the camera itself.

(Disclaimer: occasional snapshots have my complete support, especially when populated by family members smiling and hugging.)

My problem is with the quintillion photographs that are destined to mean not much to anyone, including the photographer. To me, it seems these photographs are being taken, often by travelers weighed down with brand new-looking SLRS, in pursuit of what I imagine to be "experience" or "sensation" or perhaps bragging-rights.

I believe, perhaps like an old-fashioned Photographer might, that one has the right to take photos (save snapshots) only if one understands what type of relationship one is taking to the subject matter.

No longer part of the scene, the person behind the lens has removed him/herself from the experience and has sublimated the direct experience for the flattened, miniaturized memory. This can create the comfortable sensation that all the world is just an arrangement of shapes passing by our rangefinder (or by proxy, someone else's). Grandeur is reduced to banality; compassion and empathy to passing interest; awe to intellectual criticism.

Ultimately the great digital photography revolution is creating a race of lonesome hunters, each seeking to capture some solitary image cropped and presented to one's self (and others) as the essence of experience--in total ignorance that the actual experience of plain "being" has passed them by.

When traveling, I recommend the type of camera that can fit in your pocket--if that. This way you don't need to worry about that brick of digital circuitry hanging like an albatross around your neck. Postcards often work well as a substitute for all but the most spectacular photos you might take yourself. Of course, be certain to record you and your friends and loved ones in those special places you've visited.

But other than this--please get your face out from behind the camera and spend some time being fully present in the world you inhabit.