Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Business Of Taking Pictures

I've been on a couple of trips recently. I've noticed a few things. One: I like being on vacation. Two: A lot of pictures are taken. I'm fine with picture taking, in fact I'm usually doing a good percentage of the photography. Have, however, digital cameras or cameras in general become a substitute for experience? I've noticed people will get to whatever destination, make sure everyone is photographed in that spot then they move on. It seems like the more important thing has become the photographic evidence of your being there, rather than your own experience. I was recently traveling with my brother and his girlfriend and we went on a bike ride and she would stop frequently to take a picture of us, or the scenery, then move on. After the ride was over we loaded up the bikes into the van and headed off. On the trip home she was looking through the pictures she just took, reminiscing over them as if they were some distant memory. I don't doubt she had a genuine lasting experience, but will she remember the place or the pictures more? I will admit to taking pictures with the specific purpose of uploading them to facebook just to show others that I did something or for my profile picture. I've really noticed a disconnect when I'm filming an event or something. I really just want to put my camera down and relax like everybody else. The weird thing about pictures though is that we try make them appear as if everything is business as usual someone just happened to taking a picture. Ah well. C'est La Vie... or something.


Funambulus said...

There are recorded sociological experiments in which indigenous peoples of South America, when shown a photograph, were able only to understand it a material, noting its reflective quality. They would proceed to wrinkle it, smell it and manipulate it in various manners. Never once did they register an image of any "reality" captured still on the paper.

Just something interesting to note on the nature of perception. I don't want to downplay the enormous role photographs have played in modern society (justice, history, memory etc), but I can at times fully relate to what you are saying.

For instance, when Kate and I went to the Art Institute in Chicago we noticed the same thing. People relentlessly taking photos of paintings without pause to actually see them. On the train home a fellow rider had his laptop up and scrolled through a slide show of what seemed to be the entire impressionist's wing of the building. While we didn't get to every single one, I wouldn't trade our very, very real experience before them for any collection of pictures, however much more "complete".

JD Forslin said...

That indegenous people thing is interesting. I'm always curious to know how people with little to no experience with something would use it without any instruction. Especially musical instruments.

Sometimes, as much as I hate to say it, I find myself on the side of the old folks hollering about the damned kids and their technology.