Why I don’t take pictures
Every now and then I find myself explaining to people why I don’t take pictures and it has happened so often for the past years that I’ve even got a whole theory about it, but if you talked to me before you know I have a theory about pretty much everything. Yes, I’m full of theories, some of which makes no sense and some that makes no sense at all, but still they prove themselves right time and time again. So let’s get to it!
The first reason I don’t take pictures is very personal and I’m not really sure if anyone will relate to it, but I just hate the whole turistic vibe that I usually get from people traveling. The way they rush everything, squeezing tours into their busy schedules, pinpointing cities on a map, seeing places in snapshot-sized pieces, framing everything within a viewfinder and feeling proud about getting it all done in the end.
Of course there are different kind of travelers and to each its own, as I said before, this is very personal and of course I don’t really hate it, actually I don’t hate almost anything (other than spoilers and coffee), but how many times I’ve seen people whip out their cameras, take a shot and then just walk away, like ‘got it — done!’ and they were doing so almost mindlessly and missing what was happening right in front of them.
I don’t take pictures, I focus on whatever I want to remember, in the moment, and give it my singular focus for as long as needed, later I just turn those “mental snapshots” into “written snapshots”. Rather than photographing whatever happens to be right in front of my eyes, I write down how it feels, sounds and looks, as well as the feelings or emotions that it evokes, or why and how it inspired me.
Another one, not everyone’s smiling
The second reason is that I came to realise that it is changing the way we perceived the world. Instead of living the moment, we are obsessing about capturing that perfect shot, social media-ing those pictures and sharing with the world immediately, that we miss out on the actual experience. I feel like our identity as travelers had diminished to ‘obsessive amateur photographers’, and we’re becoming so visually dependant that soon enough we won’t be able to be stimulated by reading nor writing.
Take, for example, the extreme disappointment that happens when someone didn’t have enough time to take a picture, the battery died, or his or her camera was not nearby. Instead of really engaging and experiencing the moment, all the energy is focused on the negativity and disappointment. I have seen instances where this has literally ruined peoples’ days.
All right, I’ll just photoshop it
The third and most important reason is that we don’t get to re-do the experiences of our lives and sure as hell we don’t get to pick only the ones we like best. As a matter of fact the best parts exist because of the worst parts, not despite them.
Just recently I was asked to take a photo of my friend while we’re traveling together, which I did after a brief moment of hesitation. Then she looked at the picture, deleted it (just like it never happened) and said:
“-Could you please take another one? I didn’t look good in this one”
For which I prompted replied in my usual sarcastic tone:
“-Pictures are supposed to be one’s perfect visual representation, so what does it tell you?”
Despite the fact I was joking, that’s exactly what I’m talking about, somehow we’ve created this illusion that if we can get it ‘just right’ we can not only change the moment, but somehow save only its best parts, and that is just taking a lot out of the experience itself.
Wrapping it up
Don’t get me wrong; I think photography is a beautiful and necessary art form, liking it or not, we’re a visual culture, and therefore pictures play a important role in communication. We shouldn’t stop taking photos altogether, but instead limit ourself to just a few photos a day of really striking moments, allowing ourself to break the rule every now and then, but really trying to focus on capturing only the most important or inspiring moment each day on camera.
When you look back at your pictures, you’ll probably have a lot more to say about that one picture and why it was important to you than you would an entire trip’s worth of normal pictures.
If you enjoy it, by all means, keep taking pictures, but if you are doing it just for the sake of remembering it later, keep in mind that skilled photographers with much better equipment and experience have made tons of pictures and postcards that capture that very same physical place, so you might as well put away the camera and really seize the moment.