Tuesday, July 23, 2013

You Oughta Be In Pictures...

...No, I oughtn't.

Yet another way I am technologically challenged: I do not own, nor do I feel the need to own, a camera.

I know and love people who take copious (and professional quality) pictures. I understand the inclination to document life in photographic form as it passes, and I don't begrudge the urge in others. It's simply not one I share.

 I don't take pictures well and I certainly don't appear in them well. On both sides of the camera I am acutely conscious of the 'staginess' of the moment. When taking a picture, I feel the overwhelming impatience of my subject; where it doesn't exist I feel compelled to create it. And when I'm the subject...impatience really isn't the right word. Dread would be a better one. What I am going to look like in this shot? Psychotic, mentally challenged, or just plain goofy?
The latter is the best I can hope for. I have what I'd like to think of as a decent amount of (very hard-won) self-esteem, but I know my weaknesses. I am quite simply not photogenic. Hideously misshapen teeth that in all but the rarest of unguarded instances prevent my inner smile from becoming a full-fledged grin; eyes that tend to point everywhere except where I'm supposed to be looking, despite my best efforts; and a face that could sink a thousand ships, that's me.

Folks, I am not saying this to get sympathy, or indeed any emotion at all out of my readers. I'm okay with this knowledge. It doesn't bother me most of the time. I have a wealth of gifts: empathy (probably a little too  much of that), a real desire to change the world for the better, and a modicum of intelligence. A few other talents that don't bear mentioning. I have the love of a perfectly lovely woman who, despite the hyperobservance I just detailed, is thankfully blind whenever she looks at me. All of these things make my life a joy, and so I can discount that you're never going to see me on the cover of Playgirl unless its publishers decide to drive it out of business as quickly as possible.

I'd just as soon move through the world un-photographed, physically unremembered. It's the love I leave in my wake that's important, or at least I think so. But occasionally photographs must be posed for, and in those instances my face tries to run away and hide. Being as it's stuck to my head, which is immobile except for an unfortunate and often unnoticed (by me) tilt, it's impossible for that face of mine to really go anywhere. It doesn't stop it from trying, creating (again, completely unconscious) expressions ranging from "I-think-I-just-shit-my-pants" to "I-believe-I-feel-about-twenty-cockroaches-scuttling-through-my-hair".  Such expressions do not pair well with a command to 'smile!'.

What brought all this to mind? This. According to this article, ten percent of all the photos that have ever been taken were taken in the past year. I find that incredible and more than a little disturbing.
"[Photos] are our memories of holidays and parties, of people and places"....well, not mine. My MEMORY is my memory of all these things and many more, and when it becomes unreliable I have an unbroken quarter-century of writing to fall back on. A picture may paint a thousand words, but in writing out and reading back those words I don't just see, I re-live, in a world of four dimensions and more than five senses.  

And, of course, there's the so-common-it's expected sharing of those pictures. That's the first thing people do now when they take a picture: they share it. I get it--have I not quoted Spider Robinson often enough, saying shared joy is increased?--but at the same time I confess it mystifies me a little.

Time was, if you took a picture of something truly important and memorable in more than just a personal way, you'd try to sell it to a newspaper for money, and you would then take the money and exchange it for the usual...food, shelter, what have you. Now, if you take a picture of something truly important and memorable--like, say, a disaster unfolding--it's on social media before the click of the fake shutter has died away. You haven't sold your picture, you've given it away, and you get nothing for it. Doesn't seem right to me. Then again, since it's more than likely others got something close to the same shot (after all, everybody has a camera now), your picture's probably worthless anyway.

I remember watching the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics on television. I have never in my life seen so many photos being taken--the effect was like a giant strobe light pulsing through the audience. It occurred to me that nobody was actually watching the spectacle unfold in front of them...they were all letting their phones do that for them. Something about that struck me as almost soul-crushingly depressing. It felt, to me, like living life at a remove. That's all the rage now, of course--people would rather text than talk, for instance--but it's a rage I intend to let pass me by.

I don't even need a picture of it.      

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Most of my pictures now are on-offs to post online. Something odd or quirky I just wanted to share. But then I delete them later.

But I do want a real digital SLR. My camera on my BB10 is better than the digital camera we bought eight (8? 8!!) years ago. But it's still not good enough to capture landscapes or closeups.

I'm getting really particular about the pictures I want to keep. I have to want to stare at it later, now just scroll or flip by in a photo album. And yes, we still use photo albums. The digital photos my wife I really like get printed out for our permanent memories. Hard drives get erased. Photo albums get passed down.

Well until the grand-kids get them and wonder, who are these people? and toss all the pics.