I'm not very good at photography. I assume a good photographer is one who has his camera always at the ready, able at a moment's notice to capture the perfect snapshot. I no longer think about taking a camera with me. Here's why.
First of all, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that in college, on a whim, I took a photography class. BAD IDEA. My grade in that class was my lowest in all of college. The thing that saved me was the research paper at the end. (My source list was normal--about a page--and the professor wrote "WOW!" on it, if that gives you any indication.) Heaven knows my prints were terrible.
But the real reason I never think to bring a camera along is because it ruins whatever I'm enjoying at the time. At Abby's master's graduation--a two-hour-plus ceremony at which her program was but a footnote to the rest of the festivities--I was so worried about getting a picture of her walking across the stage that I have no memory of her walking across the stage. I missed the moment because I was trying to capture it for posterity. I sat through two hours of "inspirational" speeches and what might as well have been the phone book only to miss the reason I was there in the first place.
And I think that's why I don't like to take pictures. I feel like I'm putting evaluation on hold. Instead of being blown away by beauty, or taking in the moment, or enjoying the company of friends, I'm trying to make this moment last forever. In doing so, I rob this moment so I can evaluate it later. The enjoyment for a moment can only spread so thin, and so in saving some of that for later, there's less to enjoy in the moment itself. When the picture jogs my memory later, the memory itself is lost to me. I look at the picture that captures what was supposedly happening, but the picture is a substitute; that memory isn't mine, it's the picture's.
Maybe I feel this way because I have a decent memory, and I prefer my own recollections to those caught on film. And I'm not unilaterally opposed to pictures--I enjoy looking at others' pictures, and if someone else is snapping them, I don't mind. And I do take pictures occasionally (for example, the Snuggie photo shoot). But I have trouble multitasking, and it's far too easy for me to divorce the act of taking a picture for remembrance from the enjoyment of the experience itself. In some sense, it feels like when a picture is taken, a part of my soul is captured with it, but more often when I'm behind the camera than in front of it.
What caused me to think about this is what I blogged about yesterday: Facebook. I've wondered to what extent I live my life for my online life. Do I evaluate an experience while I'm in it for its blog-worthy potential? (I've often wondered if devotional writers formulate lessons before they've really learned them, since they have to come up with lessons all the time. Or when someone goes into a situation with the thought, "I'm going to write a book about this." Can they write about their experience if they're not really experiencing it? How much does evaluation hamper experience?) Am I actually living, or do I do things for later comment? Do I take "adventures" because I'm adventurous or so that my life doesn't seem so boring to my Facebook friends? Facebook doesn't do sad very well, and because of all the smiling faces, it has a tendency to make us sad in the process by questioning if our life is, compared to our friends' lives, worth living. Is the face I reveal there my face or just an image?
What are your thoughts on photography? Facebook? Soul-losing online?