Snap it or skip it?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Which type of traveller are you: the one that lives in the moment or the one that takes photos to save the moment? Recently, our sweet reader, Tiffany sent me a link to Joshua's article. Balazs and I couldn't stop talking about it for days, and I'd like to know your thoughts on it too.

Joshua is a writer who doesn't take photos during vacations. He loves photography, but he recently came to the conclusion that he prefers to enjoy the experience for what it is, instead of saving a memory of it. He explains that he only takes photos of experiences that he enjoyed first, and if an unobtrusive opportunity arises to snap a single photo, then he does.

Here are his reasons for the change:

"We all want to capture the moment. We desire to preserve it forever, salvaging the beauty of everything we see. So we grab our cell phones, our digital cameras, and SNAP! We take a few photos to safeguard our memories. Sounds harmless, right? I mean, look around, everyone’s doing it. You can’t go to a monument or a concert or even a sunset without scads of pedestrians fiddling with their electronics, trying to save and share the experience.

There seems to be two problems with this incessant picture-taking behaviour, and I myself have been an accomplice to said problem for way too long.

First, by fumbling around with my device, looking for the best angle and filter, snapping the picture, viewing the picture, and then often retaking the shot in an effort to get the “right” photo, I’m missing the actual moment. My desire to capture the moment actually ruins the moment. It makes it less beautiful, less real, and in many ways less photo-worthy.

Second, the “result” is artificial. Time doesn’t happen in this kind of take-and-retake way. We don’t get to re-do the experiences of our lives. And yet we take our pictures as if we can “get it just right.” It gives us a false sense of security, a sense that we can not only change the moment, but somehow save only its best parts. The fact of the matter is that the best parts exist because of the worst parts, not despite them. We cannot enjoy life’s mountains without its valleys."

Makes sense doesn't it? I think it's not about snapping photos of those little moments, it's about how many we do. Plus, it's important to remember to actually allow ourselves to be part of that experience instead of just capturing it. What's your take on it?

P.S: One life to live.
P.P.S: How to have a great life full of simple pleasures.

(Photo via Another Passenger. Article via The Minimalists)


Art Farm said...

Interesting viewpoint! I don't completely agree with Joshua, but you made a great point Diana, it's more about how many photos we do take. Or if I may add, trying to get that "perfect" photo! If that's what you're after, sure you're going to take a million shots and possibly lose out on the experience. I think you can be completely mindful, still take some photos and enjoy the experience. You may not get a great photo, but not every photo you take has to be great. I'm thinking back to my family vacation in Cornwall. I took a bunch of photos, naturally, but I also wasn't glued to my camera to document every moment and experience. But I have a lot of photos that I go back to almost everyday to look at the beauty of the landscape and also look at photos of my family, who I dearly miss. Great discussion starter! xo, Katie

Elisa @ Globetrotting in Heels said...

Hmmm... the thing is, one cannot assume that his experience is the standard for everyone's experience.

The same way that we don't all get the same feelings from books, paintings and other art, maybe we should make room for the possibility that we don't experience travel photography in the same way, either.

For me, taking a photo doesn't take away from the experience; it multiplies it, because every time I see it again I am brought back. If one cannot, then fine; but you cannot call someone's experience "artificial" just because they process it in a different way from yours.

That said, I do tend to use my camera on automatic when at all possible or mess around with the settings as little as possible, because that might just be a distraction and might prevent you from being in the moment.

But I can tell that when I look at that picture of my daughters running around by a certain monastery above Verona, I can still hear them laughing, and see Stella running around and her hair blowing in the wind, and it makes me just as happy as it did then. Nothing artificial about that. And boy am I glad I snapped those photos.

Anonymous said...

The issue of taking photos has been a big struggle for me. On one hand I feel like I will miss out on something if I don't capture it. But I also feel that I keep on missing out on enjoying things because I mess with my camera too much. The balance is somewhere in the middle, where I don't feel the need to constantly take photos but when I do, actually enjoy the moment without changing my settings or sharing it right away. Slowing down is the thing that might work for me. Great discussion starter.

little t said...

I love this - buuuut I don't think I could do it. My boyfriend always jokes about my obsession with pictures (and sneaky selfies) but I think that even wrestling him into the right pose for those photos create new happy memories in themselves.

Sara said...

It's always good to remember to enjoy the moment but taking pictures is for me, an essential part of traveling. They are my favorite souvenirs and transport me back to my adventures when I look at them again (something I do often). My little brother gave me a book of photos he took during our trip to Europe this spring and it's an absolute treasure I will always have to remember our experience together.

Sally Tharpe Rowles said...

I agree with Joshua. I constantly struggle with this. I guess I d a little of both trying to find a balance between being there & preserving the moment.

Jillian Manesh said...

so interesting! i agree but i still like to take some photos when i travel. my husband usually is out with the paparazzi camera and he really enjoys taking interesting photos of our trips. i love to look back on old trips (we always make a photobook) so i'd be sad if we didnt have any pics after to remember them by! xo jillian - cornflake dreams

Steph said...

I think he has a point, but for me photography is part of the experience. I enjoy it and I enjoy expanding on it through blog posts when I get home. My camera often leads me to places like random streets that I never would have discovered if I wasn't going there to take a photo. I find I observe the place more carefully too in my search for good photos. But I do definitely agree with trying to be more in the moment!

Merry Meri said...

I love this post because it got me thinking and then I clicked to comment and loved it even more. Such insight from the ladies above! I agree that it's important not to miss the moment by being behind the lens, but for me, taking photos is like creating art - capturing a memory, a beautiful place, a perfect light or a special moment in time, not just to enjoy it later, but because of its beauty. I also find, like Steph, that my camera often makes me pause and see MORE, soak in a special place or unusual viewpoint as I explore how to take the best photograph.

I was recently having trouble getting my camera to capture a tough shot (aurora borealis!) and I had the awareness to say "oh well, I need to SEE this magic more than focus on trying to photograph it" and I think that's the most important distinction. If the camera takes you away from the pleasure of the moment take a step back from it. But if your camera adds to the pleasure and gives you a memory or piece of art to bring home for later, why not!?

thanks for the great post Diana, xox :)

Diana Mieczan said...

I agree Katie that we can be completely mindful, still take some photos and enjoy the experience. Very true!

Diana Mieczan said...

Elisa, how interesting...One of my friends said exactly the same as you - she feels that taking photos actually multiplies her experience.

Diana Mieczan said...

Slowing down is always a great idea, Anonymous :)

Diana Mieczan said...

little t, what a fantastic way to look at it. Great point!

Diana Mieczan said...

That is so special, Sara!

Diana Mieczan said...

I totally agree with what you said, Meri!

Thank you all for such a brilliant discussion.

Diana Mieczan said...

Steph, it's so interesting that you observe places more carefully in your search for good photos. I love that!

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