We’ve become a visual lot with our media—social and otherwise.
Lately I’ve thought about how, before the advent of photography, we humans managed to appreciate the beauty of life. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that there are certain places too vast and human experiences too fraught with emotion to make capturing them photographically pale when compared to the feeling inspired by living the moment.
The lack of tools needed to capture one’s likeness might have left the more self-absorbed feeling impotent unless wealth afforded them the ability to hire a portraitist.
Conversely, those less fortunate or living in rural places, set apart from civilization excepting the occasional itinerant salesman or traveler, probably owned few instruments of self-indulgence such as these; forced instead to focus upon things without.
I envision a homesteader spending a lifetime tending to land, animals and family, who when rare opportunity to break arose, did not pause to consider looks for his own sake. Rather others may have insisted that he or she gather the instruments of grooming and couture for the purpose of looking the part by which they would be judged.
I take photos. Lots and lots of them. Several recent changes have become apparent to me when I am holding a camera.
Though I work hard to remain discreet it’s intensely difficult to capture candid photos. The instant people notice me, they pose. Worse, they give me that kissy-faced selfie expression that only works for Betty Boop.
Notably, it has become implausible to capture a photo of any group of people wherein at least one person is not fixated on his or her phone rather than upon the people and happenings that surround them.
If I shoot using my phone, no one cares, few people notice and no one asks on what website the pictures will appear.
I enjoy watching people even if through a lens. Lately, I’m just less sure of exactly what I am seeing.
Children possess an innocence that I most love to capture. I lament that even those as young as one year old understand that the phone with its camera is the object for which they need to “act” and they, encouraged by well-meaning parents, respond by becoming an actor in its presence.
If there are children present in a public space, regardless of whether I say I am an amateur or professional photographer (and I have chosen to say one or the other depending upon the occasion) I get asked who I am and my purpose for taking photos. I don’t have to respond at all though I usually do. In public spaces, a person has no “expected right to privacy;” on the whole people seem to think that they do. This despite that they are likely being recorded whether I choose to press the shutter button or not.
Maybe the answer is in the words. By “taking photos” maybe people have come to believe that I am “taking” a part which inherently belongs to them. Still, I react with sadness when people become suspicious of my intentions. These are often the same ones who load their social media with photos of their children, friends, co-workers, the places they frequent, the insides of their homes, schools, places of work, worship and recreation.
I love photographing people at public events but I also make time to put down the lens and live in the moment.