I have always loved taking photos. Snippets & moments to be remembered. A glance, a smile, a space, a colour. It often takes me a little longer to get anywhere because I inevitably need to stop and take a photo or two.
My darling husband is particularly patient with me, when it comes to this – I know so many are not. Often waiting until I get the shot, before we move on, even after I tell him “I’ll catch up” and I’m not just talking about photographing our coffees before we destroy the crema (although I am guilty of this occasionally too).
Long before Instagram, hashtags or selfies, my almost every move was interrupted by a camera. I’ve taken photos for as long as I can remember; of friends, family, pets, school camp. I’ve taken photos of my feet for decades, long before #footselfies or #ihaveathingwithfloors were a thing. I learnt to turn my analog camera around, line it up and perfectly fit us in the frame – long before there were screens and apps to help.
But I think growing up in the photographic era before iPhones, DSLR’s and hard drives, is what helped me fall in love with photography. I remember the excitement I felt, walking to the chemist to pick up a film I had had developed – wondering if all those shots I took worked out the way I had hoped. Spending most of my pocket money on film and developing…or lego. My room was always covered in photographs that I took – amongst the posters of pop stars of course.
I can see the shot I want to take, before I even look through my lens.
Growing up analog helped to put a cap on the amount of clicks I took annually. Which in turn helped me to prioritise what to shoot and what I should leave behind. When you’ve only got 24 frames, you’re selective (I could never afford 36 frame film). Unfortunately, the digital era, initially a blessing, has taken us in completely the other direction.
I will be the first to admit I have taken upwards of 20,000 clicks a year – for many years, since I bought my first digital camera in 2002. I have multiple terabytes of data, painstakingly catalogued, should I ever need to find that one shot I am looking for. The sad part? Most of these amazing images I have spent countless hours, taking, downloading, editing, saving and backing up might never be seen and I am one of the organised ones.
In this age of documenting EVERYTHING, I too have fallen for its spell. I don’t want to forget. I might share it. I might print it. I want to relive it. But I know, it can also stop you seeing and experiencing those moments first hand. As soon as our focus shifts to recording the memory, we are instantly losing touch with the moment itself.
It is never more apparent than when you travel. In Paris recently, I noticed pretty much everyone filing through the Palace of Versailles had a camera. Almost everyone, did not stop to look at anything. They photographed everything but didn’t see anything. Why is that? Is it so you can be seen there? Even though you’ve seen nothing?
Concerts are another great example – the ones that make you dance until your feet hurt and feel the live drums in your chest. Nowadays the crowd near the stage barely moves; too concerned with recording the entire event, to share on social media later that night (or even during the event). They stand there – motionless, so as not to disturb their recorded image, phone held up high. I find it so ironic – they’re taping it, to re-live it – but they’re missing it completely. They recorded everything but didn’t feel anything.
A very good friend of mine asked me recently, why I feel the need to record the abstract, obscure or random moments or things? To be honest, the answer didn’t come immediately. I’ve never really stopped to think about the why. The impulse and need to capture these things, has always been there – at least since I got my very first camera at age 8, complete with single use flash cubes. But why?
I love visiting new places and watching cities change and evolve over time. Living as an expat in Europe only elevates this awareness. For me, I think the very act of noticing that moment or space or thing is all part of my creative process and that creative process is me. It’s how I see the world, how I experience the world and how I interpret the world. It is as much a part of me, as my camera is but I now stop and make sure I live in this world too.
To be present, to look up, to listen, to feel, to laugh and to dance. To create memories without the need for documentation. It doesn’t all have to be on film (or hard drive) to matter.
Do you feel the same? Do you take too many photos or feel you don’t take enough? Perhaps you leave it up to someone else? What do you do with all your photos?
I wonder, with a heavy heart, what will become of them.
I’d love to hear some feedback on this topic. Photography’s such a huge part of my existence, to the point where people don’t bring a camera to events when they know I’ll be there. Perhaps I should start making photobooks?
Thanks for reading this far and checking in with me,