Pictures are everywhere these days. No one sees anything without first looking at it through a screen.
I’ll bet that if you look out on the street at this very moment, more than half of the people (probably closer to 90%) walking by are looking at their little screens.
That is their world. It is their perception of the world.
Is it that through globalization humanity’s concept of our planet and its vastness, its billions of people all thrusting and grabbing and moving, is just too much for our little brains to absorb? That we must, therefore, contain it, shrink it, peer at it through a manageably-sized window?
Or is it simply screen addiction?
When I was a child, Polaroid cameras were all the rage and people snapped pictures of everything, marvelling at the instantaneousness of it all. But they were also expensive and this obsession didn’t last long.
For the most part, 35 mm cameras were the norm. And disk cameras – does anyone remember those? I think my first camera was a disk camera.
Anyway, processing film was by no means instantaneous, nor was it particularly cheap and, as such, the average person did not take 20 pictures of the same scene – unless, of course, they were photographers, which is an entirely different matter.
They also didn’t take pictures of every single moment of life, capturing it forever as if memories couldn’t hold it.
Today, in the digital age, pictures don’t need to be processed and are right there, free, the moment you take them. Now it’s as though we all collectively fear mass amnesia and have to capture every second with a click. Because we can.
On the plus side, this has allowed the average person to take some truly remarkable pictures and even to capture special memories in a beautiful and frameable way. Anyone can play at being a photographer.
But on the downside, our concept of our wide world has faded, or maybe morphed, and now exists almost entirely through the small rectangular screen in each of our hands.
We no longer can go for a walk in the woods and simply enjoy our beautiful planet; instead we have to take pictures of it, at every angle, as if we were trying to capture it or tame it or own a little piece of it.
I’m as guilty of this as the next person.
I have thousands of pictures. Pictures of my son, of the trees, the sky, the moon, flowers. And in the moment, while I took each of them, I’m sure I was appreciating them and thinking of their beauty, of how special the subject or occasion was.
But can I say I was really connecting with my subject?
Was I really in the moment, living and breathing it?
I don’t think I was. I think the screen sets us apart a bit, distances us from this wonderful thing we are trying to keep forever. Perhaps it is this distance which fuels the fear of forgetting the moment, driving us to keep on snapping those picutres.
Sometimes it is better to leave the camera behind and immerse oneself in the experience. To BErather than to capture.
Why do you need a picture of that? Can’t you remember it? And if you take a picture, will you experience the moment through your other senses, or will they fade away? Will you hear the sounds, smell the scents, or will you be so engrossed in fitting the scene perfectly into that rectangular screen, that everything else fades? That you fade, because you are no longer a participant?
I think it’s time that we try life without so many pictures.
Let’s leave our cameras behind, fight the urge to capture everything, and go out into the world, engage all our senses and be in the moment, without pictures.
Let’s go out and find the World again.
Go on, try it. I dare you. I’ll do it too.
I guarantee you will not forget what you see.