I Don’t Take Many Pictures – Here’s Why.

Are we becoming so concerned about posting our lives on Facebook that we forget to live our lives in the here-and-now? Think of a time when you took a trip holding a camera in your hand and then think of when you did the same without the camera. The experience is different. We have a different attachment to our present when we are not concerned with documenting – Nathan Jurgenson

The only times I really take pictures are when friends ask me to. Even then, I cringe and click as reluctantly as I can. Just so they get the hint.

I am wary of this compulsion to document. Holidays, vacations, travels spent posing and photographing rather than…experiencing. My memories aren’t going to evaporate. I will remember everything I’ve seen that is beautiful and ugly and memorable because I’ve lived it. Because I’ve watched it unfold with my eyes rather than through my camera lens.

I admit, I have a few Facebook albums dedicated to holidays. Those are the exceptions not the rule. It is usually when I’m the only (unfortunate) sucker present with a good camera. More often than not, these have not made the list of my favourite travels. Because I have been too busy clicking to let the feeling of travel wash over me. I’d rather tuck bus tickets, train passes and bar receipts from my travels between the pages of books to surprise me and reminisce over on a rainy day, than spend valuable time clicking.

That aside the best kind of memories can’t be committed to film.

I could have taken pictures of one of my best friends – Mrs. R’s – wedding. And I did. But at the moments she was actually wed, my camera was in my bag. My eyes were on her striking face. The one I’d grown to love so in the past six years. I cried because I’d never felt closer or more far away from her. That moment she became a wife while still being my Mrs R – That was the exact moment of her wedding I wanted to hold close and it couldn’t be photographed. I don’t need a piece of glossy paper to remember.

I could have taken pictures of the last holiday the S.O and I took, to Liverpool. And I did. Of everything The Beatles – and that was primarily to show our fathers. What I really remember was holding his hand as we went aboard the ferry; the first time either of us had used that mode of transportation. I remember the lacy gray waves splashing and curling, the cold wind thrashing against our ears. The rhythm of water and wind, too beautiful and fearsome to be documented via snapshot. Again, it didn’t need to be. We will always remember.

I suppose the SS and I could have documented our “Bangkok Baybeh!” travels. To be fair, she did. I didn’t. I remember what’s important though; our last night in Bangkok. The one time I got her to leave her camera behind. The night we sat at the outdoor bar, drank Tiger beer after Tiger beer, smoked cigarette after cigarette, and just…talked. In that effortless wonderful way you can talk to only with your best friend. Where you manage to be witty and profound and hilariously funny in a way you can only be when you’re together. When I look at her photo album, I remember tiger cubs, spicy soup and weekend markets. Her album doesn’t include that night. It doesn’t need to. We both remember it.

The week before I left Bombay, as well as the week before I left London, I walked. Alone. To all my favourite spots, to all the places my blood gets a little warmer, and my heart exapnds in “hello you“. I didn’t take my camera with me and I didn’t use my phone. It was my last week in my city and I didn’t want to document.

I wanted to see.

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7 thoughts on “I Don’t Take Many Pictures – Here’s Why.

  1. […] I finally wrote in my first love, my first blog. It has been far too long and it has been neglected. I always feel this warm fuzziness after posting in that blog. It is a good and loyal friend in that strange way only fellow bloggers will understand. It is the free equivalent of a shrink. […]

  2. I agree completely. It’s the same reason I never take pictures at shows any more. I only bring my camera if there’s a lucky chance I get to meet someone in the band I went to see, but not to watch the show through a lens. I have done that far too many times and regret almost all of them.

    1. Taking pictures at shows is the worst; I always want to yell at people who come for concerts to clickety-click rather than enjoy the music. What have they paid for? The right to take pictures or to see a band they love, live? I never take a camera to shows, and for concerts like Coldplay or RHCP, I just like taking a shot of the crowd with my phone, so I can later think, “I was amongst all these thousands of strangers and ALL of us knew all the lyrics.” Which is a pretty wow if unoriginal thought.

      1. Yeah. No kidding. I went through a phase where I was obsessed in trying to bootleg as much as I possibly could, even having it happen twice where I got the entire show (All-American Rejects, November 15, 2008 and blink-182, late August 2009), but then because of an ill-timed battery death at the VERY end…nothing saved. (Aside from, oddly enough, 30 seconds of Mark Hoppus singing Oh Canada.)

  3. I think your viewpoint on this is amazing. I have HUGE issues with this – if I forget my camera or I have it, but don’t take pictures I feel so horrible after that fact. I keep thinking oh no I won’t have this for my posterity to see or for me to come upon and randomly and think on.

    You are right though, we shouldn’t need pictures, but it scares me so much not to have them. It’s ridiculous I know, but I can’t help it and it’s something I have to deal with – to remember that the memories will remain in my mind with or without their existence on some paper.

    1. Its so great to hear from you! And I think your fear is a pretty common one. I have it a lot of the time too. I’d feel terrible if I had my camera and didnt take pictures or if I’d just forgotten to bring my camera in the first place. Then I said, “Enough!” and just stopped bringing my camera along. On purpose. And it was great; I saw more, never forgot the important things, and became a happier traveller&experiencer overall. You really should – at some point, whenever the fear ebbs – give it a shot. I don’t think you’d regret it!

  4. I know what you mean. I love my camera. But I realized I had started looking at life through the lens, without actually seeing and feeling the moment around me. I now take it out when I specifically want to document something for a reason. Otherwise it stays put, sleeping and whiling away its time, happy to wait till its needed.

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