Don’t Lose the Moment for the Shot

I love taking pictures.

In fact, I have been a photography junkie since I had my first Kodak Brownie back in the last century.

I learned how to develop and print – a lost art….

I graduated from camera to camera until I had a full SLR system with a variety of lenses and accoutrements.

And joyfully and seamlessly made the leap from film to digital, from big cameras to small ones and phones, and from Shutterfly to Instagram, and confess to trying and using every app I can to filter, enhance, SFX or otherwise add to the story value of my pics.

I even admit to having the best printed and framed.

And every keeper tells a story – or rather is the catalyst for a story – stories I love to tell and share – otherwise what is the point?

Stories of family, events, far-off places, close-in neighborhoods, interesting people, strange sightings…you get the point.

And then of course there is video, which I became enamored of when small devices hit the market with great editing and SFX apps, and now my phone is full of short clips of great performances, amazing places, beautiful grandchildren and crazy moments.

I don’t know about you – but even the video is to me just a reminder of the bigger and longer moment – a way to remember and replay, a way to enhance memory and build a story. A way to keep a moment alive. It’s about cherishing the moment, not the act of recording it.

But we seem to be on the verge of losing our ability to cherish in our pursuit of the shot.

Listen to the following two excerpts from A Defining Question in an iPhone Age: Live for the Moment or Record It?, an article by Alex Williams in the September 26, 2014, New York Times:

Is it more important that we actually live these experiences than obsessively record and upload them to the cloud?” asked William Powers, a research scientist at the M.I.T. Media Lab and author of “Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age.” “Absolutely. Will most people therefore learn to be more in-the-moment and swear off excessive pictures and videos? I doubt it.

Even Jack White, former White Stripes rocker, weighed in when he appeared on Conan this past June, where he and the host went on a lengthy diatribe about the ubiquitous glowing screens that mar so many public performances.

I’ve had the experience when I go out and perform in front of people where all I see is a sea of iPads,” Conan O’Brien said with exasperation. “You can’t even see their faces.

Mr. White agreed, adding that he was forced to instruct the audience on his most recent tour to put down their devices and “just enjoy this with our eyes and our ears.” Far from being irked, he said, audiences actually applauded. (Acts like the Eagles, Prince and She & Him have recently gone the same route.)

I recommend reading the entire piece – bottom line – our obsession with 15mgs of fame is making our stories shallow and more about us than about the moment.

What really got me was a piece I read in The New Yorker (I recommend this one too) about GoPro – full confession, a product I love.

I have copied a short part of the full article because I found it so sad…listen:

As he accelerated, he noticed, to his left, an elk galloping toward him from the ridge. He glanced at the trail, looked again to his left, and saw a herd, maybe thirty elk, running at full tilt alongside his bike, like a pod of dolphins chasing a boat. After a moment, they rumbled past him and crossed the trail, neither he nor the elk slowing, dust kicking up and glowing in the early-evening sun, amid a thundering of hooves. It was a magical sight. The light was perfect. And, as usual, Chase was wearing two GoPros. Here was his money shot—the stuff of TV ads and real bucks.

Trouble was, neither camera was rolling. What with his headache and the ample footage of the past days, he’d thought to hell with it, and had neglected, just this once, to turn his GoPros on. Now there was no point in riding with the elk. He slowed up and let them pass. “Idiot,” he said to himself. “There goes my commercial.”

Once the herd was gone, it was as though it’d never been there at all—Sasquatch, E.T., yeti. Pics or it didn’t happen. Still, one doesn’t often find oneself swept up in a stampede of wild animals. Might as well hope to wingsuit through a triple rainbow. So you’d think that, cameras or not, he’d remember the moment with some fondness. But no. “It was hell,”…

To be clear, I find it sad because I didn’t see it coming as I was reading – I was sure it was going the other way – that he would be euphoric in the moment…alas, not.

I don’t advocate a moratorium on pictures or videos – to the contrary – snap and record as you like – what an amazing time to live in that we can do so.

What I do advocate is to take time to savor the event, the moment, the place, the people – by all means take that selfie – and don’t miss the money shot – but I really do believe you will regret – one day – not having a real story to tell with all of your heart and emotion – because all you will have is the story of how you got the shot…. Listen:

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” Aaron Siskind

And I might add – long after we are forgotten – and if all we tell is the story of the shot – how sad that so much will be missed.

What do you think?

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