A wise person once said, “If you want to see what somebody is afraid of losing the most, watch what they photograph.” In my nineteen years I have seen the demise of the film camera, the rise of the digital camera, and the takeover of the smartphone camera. Photographs have become an essential part of our daily lives. We take them for important events and for cute selfies. But is the act of taking our pictures preventing us from experiencing our lives?

Modern sporting events or concerts aren’t the same as they were decades ago. In years past, the audience attended to experience the atmosphere in the venue and watch the game or performance. Today, everyone is more focused on taking pictures or videos of the event than they are to actually experience the moment that they are living in. We are afraid of forgetting, so we take pictures to avoid losing those moments. Sadly, our good intentions are sometimes counterproductive.

Here I am, clinging to a cross on the mountaintop hoping I don't get blown away by 60 mile per hour winds - Montserrat, Spain
Here I am, clinging to a cross on the mountaintop hoping I don’t get blown away by 60 mile per hour winds – Montserrat, Spain

I’ll be the first to admit it. I have been one of those people watching concerts through the lens of my camera. I used to be glued to my camera and phone, always ready to capture the perfect moment for eternity. I made myself the unofficial photographer. But a downside of that position was that I felt removed from the fun times that I was missing out on. I had always been too busy trying to capture the excitement of a moment and ended up never experiencing the present for everything that it had to offer.

When I left home a few months ago to study abroad for a year, my perspective changed. Why did I feel the need to take the same exact picture that thousands of tourists before me had already taken? I was just distracting myself from living in the moment. After traveling a few weekends with that photography style, I realized that something had to change. If I wanted to enjoy my time abroad, I needed to look out from behind the lens.

So that’s what I did. I put down the camera and spent the rest of my semester among my friends. I still took pictures but I was much more selective.

I think that’s one of the big problems of our generation. We want our experiences to last forever although we become so caught up in preserving them that we can’t even appreciate our experiences while they’re happening. People prefer quality over quantity for nearly anything. Photographs are no exception. It isn’t wise to take pictures just to take them. It’s better to take fewer pictures that have more meaning than have a plethora of low-quality meaningless pictures.

Sometimes, pictures are perfect for capturing moments just like these - Heidelberg, Germany
Sometimes, pictures are perfect for capturing moments just like these – Heidelberg, Germany

Go ahead, take lots of pictures. Enjoy the moments you have and live your life to the fullest. But just remember, pictures can never recreate the excitement of the present.

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