I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been shooting a photograph and tripped, knocked into a pole, or straight up fell down. Most of my travels are spent behind the lens of my camera, attempting to capture the world in a permanent way. And for each time I embarrassingly injure myself by not being completely aware of my surroundings, I’m actually doing it in pursuit of being completely aware of my surroundings.
Some argue that when you take photos or post on Instagram, you’re not living in the moment. This argument comes mostly into play when you’re traveling. I’ve had complete strangers tell me to get my DSLR away from my face and look at the landscape, event, person, or whatever is going on, with my own eyes. Think pieces will tell you that next time you travel, you shouldn’t take any photos, and instead, try to be present. Even my boyfriend has questioned why I can’t just enjoy an instance without opening the camera app on my phone.
I am one to argue that I am at my most present when my finger is on the shutter button of my camera. I take photographs because, in the moment, I am most at awe with what I’ve witnessed and need to preserve that memory forever. And better yet, because I took those photos, I then get to relive that memory later when I’m viewing the photos on my computer as I choose the best ones to edit in Lightroom for publication on my portfolio or blog.
Telling photographers to leave our cameras behind or “pay attention” is counterintuitive to how we see the world and wish to remember it.
In the film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a Life Magazine photographer waits on top of a mountain in the Himalayas for a snow leopard he’s been waiting to shoot to appear. When the big cat finally appears for the perfect one-in-a-million-shot, he does not take a photograph and instead just sits there and watches it through his lens. Walter Mitty asks him why he didn’t take a photo and the photographer utters the famous quote, “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention,” and adds that if he really loves a moment, he doesn’t take a photo of it and just wants to stay there in the moment.
While I agree with the sentiment of this . . . I would just take the photo. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing beautiful things and finding a way to latch onto them forever. The artist, journalist, creator, and intuitive being inside of me feels that there is no disconnect between what I see with my eyes than when reality and my vision is separated by a lens. The photographer Marc Riboud once said, “Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second,” and I wholeheartedly agree. I savor the reality I’m seeing and I just happen to use a mechanic instrument to steal it.
Perhaps someday I’ll test the theory of using just the recall of the most inner parts of my brain to extract memories of my adventures. Often I wish I could be someone who can do that at will and stand and stare at something with no desire to tarnish the space with the click of the shutter. However, at this time in my life, this incessant need to press a button to capture an image is an odd addiction that I have no desire to break and don’t feel the need to apologize for.
In your quest to find out what being present actually means to you, know that for some, we can be pulled out of a moment over panic that we forgot our camera at home or our phone is about to die. Some of us are photographers who make a living or thrive artistically off lugging our heavy equipment along with us to our destinations. Telling us to leave our cameras behind or “pay attention” sans lens is counterintuitive to how we see the world and wish to remember it.