Sometimes when we are so busy taking pictures we miss out on what’s actually right in front of us.
Recently I was in Acadia National Park and I noticed how my perception of reality would change with just the presence of a camera in my pocket. Whenever I saw something beautiful, my first thought would be, “I want to take a photo.”
The experience made me wonder if perhaps I was missing out on something in that moment. Like the other crowds of tourists clutching their cameras, was I somehow blocking my experience of perceiving something in all of its totality? In all of its beingness? Was I not actually paying attention as fully as I could?
Some of us take pictures of practically everything, collecting thousands of photos, uploading them to Facebook, Instagram or keeping them on our phone. In this era of immediacy, the world has never been so easy to hold on to. We carry devices around in our pockets, our weapons against impermanence, our tickets to securing a sort of “I was there, therefore I am” mentality. But have some of us gone overboard, using the camera to “capture” moments like hunters in pursuit of prey?
On the other hand, there is wisdom in our desires to take photos. They’re an example of us appreciating the moment, and maybe even a moment we feel is sacred. They spring from feelings of awe, and maybe deep down we know this moment of beauty is also a moment of death…because as it is happening, it is also ending and that is a sad thing for us.
But there’s no need to document every moment, or even every other moment. Instead of removing ourselves from the immediacy of the situation with a shutter click here, a shutter click there, why not stay with whatever experience has truly inspired us?
I am not suggesting we stop taking photos completely. After all, I’m a sucker for family photo albums and am grateful for the stories they’ve given me about my family’s past, but I am suggesting that we bring more mindfulness to when and how we take photos so that we can be more present.
Every moment might be somewhat unfulfilling because we can’t hold on to it, but that’s the beauty of it. Why distance ourselves from that truth? Don’t we want that nostalgic tenderness towards life? Why not choose that feeling instead of the one we’re grasping after? It is much more real than the image posted on Instagram that no one will remember by tomorrow anyway.
Perhaps it is only when we stop taking photos for a while that we can return to the craft as true artists, even if still just beginners.