Cameras are everywhere. Some use cameras for dummies – point, click and hope the picture did not turn out fuzzy or a headless shot of Aunt Lulu, while others depend on cellphone cameras or tricked out photographic equipment costing thousands of dollars.
Folks feel compelled to take pictures. At one time or another, we all see things we want to capture and save. The reasons vary. Subjects may be unusual or beautiful or unfamiliar to the photographer’s body of knowledge.
We take photographs to preserve an expression on a loved one’s face or to bear witness to a particular moment or event. It is hard to tell what the photographer had in mind when he took pictures of a grimacing couple at the airport as they navigated the intrusive airport security lines. Perhaps he tried to capture the couple’s unhappy thoughts. Good trick if a camera could do that.
With some people, the picture taking mania begins with sonogram “pictures” of little Alice or Alex in the womb, which consist of wiggly lines in a cone-shaped “frame.” Whenever someone proudly shows off a sonogram picture, ninety-nine percent of the time this writer does not see anything close to resembling a baby.
In fact, she often blurts out “What is that?” To which the annoyed parent replies “That’s a picture of my baby.”
Since the Grands’ birth, our daughter has taken countless pictures of her children, commencing with the cuddled by Mom photos right after birth. If we count school and extracurricular activity photographs from every school year, she could probably wallpaper her entire house with the children’s photographs.
The progression of photographic images could begin at the front door of the children as newborns. As the visitor walks through the house, one could watch the Grands grow up with glimpses of birthday parties, Christmases, vacations, etc. Then at the back door, the pictures would be of them graduating from high school and college followed by their weddings. Such a photographic odyssey would be memorable. And as a bonus, the walls would never need painting.
Every time the Grands came to visit us during the summer when they were growing up, their mother’s parting request (also known as an order) was always the same. “Take pictures.” Since the purpose of their visits was to relax and have fun, their mother’s request often slipped our minds until the last minute. Then a flurry of pictures took up residence in the camera to please the maternal parent.
Perhaps the lack of desire to take pictures was a direct result of endless years of posed family photographs. A family picture-taking event was stressful. Another contributing factor to the camera aversion was watching amateur photographers in a picture-taking frenzy wherever we traveled. Your humble spectator chose the minimalist approach when it came to the photographic chronicling of travels and events.
Consider this; if we spend our time experiencing the world through the viewfinder of a camera, then we miss out on the extraordinary beauty and events unfolding before us. Pictures are supposed to help us relive moments we experienced. Do you think the compulsion to take photographs robs folks of the essence of life experiences? The exceptions are the photographers, like our son, whose ability to capture more than what the average person sees transcends picture taking from mementos to the realm of art.
The time spent patiently filling photo albums is almost a lost art. For the most part, old photographs often languish in dust-covered shoeboxes. Since the digital cameras appeared, we upload pictures to our computers or if we are ambitious, onto CDs. No matter where our photographs reside, they still get lonely waiting for someone to view them.
Consequently, the choice remains. Do we live in the moment or experience the world through a tiny viewfinder, like Gulliver peering into the castle of the Lilliputians through a comparatively small window?