I love photography. I am never far from a camera, and never quit looking for pictures. Sometimes I realize that whenever I’m out and about I automatically look for photos, no matter whether I am out shooting or not.
However recently I have been taking my camera out with me less in everyday life, and reserving my photography to specific times when I leave the house specifically to take photos.
Social media has most of us living in fear of losing the moment. We feel compelled to document our life in snapshots. In slices of reality that can decorate our Facebook Timeline.
In the ’60s Ray Davies (of the Kinks) sang that “people take pictures of the Summer, just to prove that it really existed”, but what would he sing now? Even if you don’t take your camera out with you, someone is always likely to have a smartphone which incorporates a camera good enough to produce magazine-quality prints. And they take it out. And we all need to stop until they get the right shot.
There is nothing wrong in wanting to keep photographic evidence of an event, but if we obsess over it too much, we give too much care and attention to the photo rather than actually living the experience.
I go about it by reaching a compromise of sorts. First of all I have set up specific times to go out shooting. When I’m traveling I will spend some quality time shooting exclusively, but then I will also leave the hotel without my camera (OK, I take my baby camera just in case) to simply absorb the place. Looking for a photo has its advantages, but in the process of looking for the perfect picture you lose touch of what’s going on around you.
At the end of the day it boils down to a simple choice. Do you want to spend the precious time we’re given living your life for yourself or do you intend to document it minutely to share with the rest of the world? If you’re playing with your kids in the park – what is more important, having 200 photos of them playing or actually playing with them? If you’re out drinking with friends, what do you want – memories of yourself enjoying it or spending the next morning ruing that you don’t have enough to come up with a Facebook album of the night out?
So what would I have you do? Ditch the camera, stop taking photos of what goes on in your life? Nope, that would hardly be practical. Set time aside for photos. The last time I went to a concert I shot a couple of frames of the artist, shot some video footage for posterity and then enjoyed the concert in its entirety. If I want more good photos or a full video I can always find some by rummaging around on the Internet. If I want to take good music photography I won’t do it at the concert of a band I loved.
Try it – spend less time thinking about how you’re going to preserve and share the memory and spend the rest of your time living your life as if you did not need evidence of the fun you had. As if you did not have to prove that the Summer really existed. I might be a bit extreme in this belief – I did not even want a photographer at my wedding.
And if you want to convince your friends you can have a good time on a night out, then take them out with you the next time you hit town. And when you’re standing in front of a stunning sunset, take your hands off the camera and use them to hold your better half’s hand. Breathe in and savour the moment through your own eyes, not through a lens.