Note to self: know when to put the camera down!

We went to fam­i­ly fav-place Long­wood Gar­dens last night for New Year’s eve. It was cold but the lights on all the trees were beau­ti­ful and the fire­works were loud and fun. Going around I kept think­ing about how many cam­eras were around. I took a few pho­tos of course, but I real­ized I’m start­ing to devel­op a reac­tion to Obses­sive Pho­tog­ra­phy Dis­or­der. How many fuzzy pic­tures of long-ago fire­works do peo­ple need to store on their hard dri­ves?

A few weeks ago I took an eye-opening pic­ture at a wed­ding. It was a quick pho­to of the bride and father walk­ing down the “aisle” (it was more a space between tables in a small ban­quet room). I must have had squirm­ing Fran­cis in one arm, the cam­era in the oth­er, because it’s all blur­ry. The light’s bad, there’s red eye, it’s total­ly not some­thing to send up to Flickr. But what’s haunt­ing about the pic­ture is the back­ground: behind the bride you can see four peo­ple. From left to right, they are: tak­ing a pic­ture, hold­ing cam­era at neck lev­el ready to take a pic­ture, lean­ing back from the cam­era screen set­ting up a shot, and look­ing down at a dis­play review­ing the just-taken pic­ture. This is a wed­ding and it’s the dra­mat­ic part: the bride’s just entered the room and is about to be giv­en away by her father (it’s a sec­ond wed­ding so I can’t take the sym­bol­ism too far, but still this should be a holy moment).

Many Friends Meet­ings ban cam­eras in wed­ding cer­e­monies and I shouldn’t have relaxed my stan­dards to take my own pho­to­graph of the wedding-in-progress. There are times where our pres­ence is much more impor­tant than any doc­u­men­ta­tion. I dare say that none of the two-dozen or so walking-down-the-aisle pho­tos tak­en that day are worth devel­op­ing or print­ing. I use my picture-taking for memory’s sake and love look­ing at old shots of the fam­i­ly, and a few of the pic­tures I took that day are def­i­nite keep­ers. But us com­pul­sive shut­ter bugs need to know when to put the cam­era down.

  • Liz

    I’ve often won­dered about peo­ple who are more intent on record­ing an expe­ri­ence than in par­tic­i­pat­ing in it. Some of them are mem­bers of my fam­i­ly. They don’t actu­al­ly know what they’ve seen until they get home and can look at the video.

  • On the oth­er hand, some­times record­ing an expe­ri­ence for oth­ers takes pri­or­i­ty over expe­ri­enc­ing it your­self. Sort of a “des­ig­nat­ed dri­ver” role. If nobody had ever sat through Elias Hick’s ser­mons tak­ing them down in short­hand, we wouldn’t know much today about what he said, for instance. Or WIlliam Penn’s Lon­don tri­al for dis­turb­ing the peace.
    There’s some dis­cus­sion in my Year­ly Meet­ing now about whether a cam­era should be banned from YM busi­ness ses­sions, along with sound-recording devices. No men­tion of dis­trac­tion, there. Cur­rent­ly all the resis­tance has to do with wor­ry that images and mes­sages can’t be inter­pret­ed cor­rect­ly by peo­ple who weren’t phys­i­cal­ly present.