I have read a few articles recently advocating taking fewer photographs. Some of these articles have “gone viral” on social media, being “liked” and shared thousands of times. Have you seen them? These articles recommend putting down the camera and being more “in the moment”. They claim that we are in danger of not enjoying the time we spend with loved ones because we are seeing everything through the viewfinder of a camera. Some writers even claim that when we take photos of things we are less likely to remember them, and even risk damaging our memories permanently.
Here’s my response to this current trend (excuse the language): What a load of crap!
I guess there are people who take thousands of photos and never look at them again, who take no notice of their environment because they are too busy snapping away with their phone cameras. But my observation is that those people are definitely in the minority. I’m not like that – and I know you aren’t either. I take lots of photos. Too many probably. But I cherish every one of them, I pore over them, delighting in the memories they trigger. I guarantee I have a better recollection of places, celebrations, fun events because of the stories and memories captured in my photos than those people who were fully “in the moment” but have no photos.
In fact I think photographers are often more “in the moment” than anyone else. We are constantly looking for that perfect shot. We notice the light, shadows, colours and shapes. We see details in the scene that others ignore – a golden glow around a child’s head as the afternoon sun lights up her curls, the way the fabric of the tablecloth drapes over the garden chairs, a dragonfly hovering, dewdrops on a spider’s web. We see beauty in everyday objects and we capture what we see. Or try to, anyway.
I’m an avid travel photographer, as you probably know. But I’m not very good at remembering to take photos of the everyday, or even at special occasions. Every Christmas, especially, I am very much in the moment. I’m the host, I cook and decorate and serve and I love to do all that. But sometimes I am so much in the moment that I don’t even remember to get my camera out, and that makes me sad. I recently came across the photo in this page below. It was taken a few years ago around the Christmas dinner table. It’s frankly not a great photo – the people on the left are not well lit, there’s a distracting strip of a light colour at the top (next door’s garden shed), and only half the people are smiling or looking like they’re having a good time.
Content used in this page: Perfect Place Blueprint from p2P; Be Jolly Kit from Little Feet Digital Designs; Santa’s Sleigh Alphaset from CottageArts
But what makes this photo extra special is that in the last 3 years we have lost 4 of these people. My Mum, my sister-in-law and both my parents-in-law passed away since this photo was taken. We miss them dreadfully, of course, but looking at photos like this one brings a smile to our faces as much as it brings a tear to the eyes because of the happy memories it triggers. We all know that death is inevitable, yet somehow it always catches us by surprise. We fool ourselves into thinking we have plenty of time, that there will always be another tomorrow, another Christmas dinner, another photograph.
Of course, the best way to keep those memories alive, and to get the best from your photos is to put them in an album, and journal the stories. Don’t leave the photos on memory cards and computer discs. When I’m creating digital scrapbook albums with my photos, I’m not just putting them on a page for safekeeping. I’m reliving the whole experience, and reminiscing about why I took the photos in the first place. For my travel photos, I do research about the places in the photos to add to my journaling. In sharing the completed pages I get to celebrate those moments all over again. I reckon I am a lot more “in the moment” than if I hadn’t taken a single photo.
Looking back on that Christmas dinner, do I wish there was more food, or more decorations on the tree? I don’t even remember what we ate or how full the tree was. Do I wish I had more photos? You betcha.