What’s the Point of Taking Pictures?

After a delightful long weekend with friends, I found myself waving goodbye yesterday and thinking, “Fooey, I should have taken more pictures.” Now, when these particular friends (including Joe and Megan of SkinnyHippos) are involved, there’s always some great facial expression or adventure to capture. But I often find myself thinking what a shame it is that many of those captured moments are actually reenactments for the camera, not the actual moment that inspired laughter.

Some of my photographer friends in Richmond (definitely thinking of marvelousthings) are incredibly adept at catching the moment at weddings, but that’s because their camera is like a third arm — it’s just a natural extension of who they are and what they do. How do you keep the moments authentic and worthy of capture when you just have a point-and-click, or when you’re activity of choice (snowboarding this weekend) doesn’t lend itself to keeping a camera handy? Hmm, apparently I need to have a conversation about photography philosophy.

With those fleeting thoughts in mind, this article on “slow photography” in Slate provided some good food for thought. That is, do we take photos for the purpose of record-keeping? Of memory-keeping? Of having a hobby that requires lots of pretty paper and design decisions afterwards? This is only part of the conversation I’d like to have, but it’s a starting point. Here’s an excerpt:

But while taking photos has become a way to mark almost any moment, there is often an unnoticed tradeoff. Photography is so easy that the camera threatens to replace the eyeball. Our cameras are so advanced that looking at what you are photographing has become strictly optional. To my surprise, no monument I saw in Israel could compete with the back of the camera. What gets lost is the idea that photography might force you to spend time looking at what is in front of you, noticing what you might otherwise ignore.”

The slow-photography movement asks what is the point of taking pictures? – By Tim Wu – Slate Magazine.


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