So I took a recent family vacation to Florida, filled with the mega-branding of Disney and Universal Studios and all that jazz, and it reminded me of something which often bugs me on vacations, where ever I go.
YOU ARE NOT YOUR CAMERA.
Now this isn’t some professional image. It’s one of the rare images my husband or I took on a trip to Rome in 2009. I had to hunt and peck to find it. We don’t take many photos while traveling. I’ll get to the reason in a moment. Note above the woman outlined in red viewing the architecture of the basilica around her through the viewfinder. Note the man outlined in green simply taking in the experience, absorbing every detail in the moment.
Needless to say, we took under 10 pictures in total to our recent trip to Florida. I’m guesstimating here. In Italy we took a few more, mostly because I’m an archeology hound and when we hit Pompeii I went nuts. Still, the camera has it’s time and place. I understand the need we have to share moments with others, I do my fair share, certainly. That’s fine and dandy. However, don’t forget to live in the moment yourself first.
Wait, what? Did you hear me?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed families or groups of people shuttled from place to place, so intent to get the ‘perfect photo op’ that they forget to actually immerse themselves in the experience the location offers. I’ve also had the annoying relative along on a vacation who demands we stop every five minutes and gather for a pose.
You can guess how well this works on me. 😉 I do not pose *well*. If I’m smelling the flowers of a tree I’ll never see again, taking in the view of fuming Vesuvius, or tracing a wild grape-vine under my fingertips at the Tarxien Temple on Malta, no, I’m sorry, but you can take the picture as is, wait, or get over yourselves. Yes, I will give you a few poses per vacation. YES! But I refuse to pose. I feign ignorance and keep doing my own thing, lost in my own little world. I’m absolutely impossible, I assure you! 😉
There’s a value to putting the fucking camera down and then running off after the butterfly and finding the coatimundi a foot off the beaten path when you’re trekking around in Mexico. This value is called a real actual experience between you and the divine now. You can’t make it up or fabricate it or generate it on a whim. It happens as life plays out, every second of every day. And if you’re not paying attention, then it’s your loss. You can’t get a rain check or a make up day. Once it’s gone that’s it. Game over.
That day hubby and I went whale watching and the whales blew us off but a pod of dolphins came along and swam and cavorted along our boat? Fabulous! My hand skimmed the water and my eyes met the lead dolphin’s. A second later it rammed our tiny boat and I almost went flying into the water, and I know it was on purpose, that stinker! I remember a woman behind me who was so proud she’d caught the dolphin on video (lording it over me) because I hadn’t even been trying. What she missed was I had this incredible interaction with a wild, highly intelligent creature who’d invited me in a rather rough way to come out and play. I was laughing my head off. I loved it. She looked down her nose at my poor foresight, as clearly I’d never fully be able to share this experience with others without film.
People like that I want to coat in paint and force to eat snails and drink dandelion wine. All for fun, mind you. Sometimes I do weird things for fun.
Mind you, I’m not dissing photography. It’s a wonderful art, and what’s key is those artists live in the moment first, and then find the synergy of elements that make a great picture out of what they love about the setting. For us tourists, those of us passing through a place for the first time, I think it behooves us to saturate our senses with the touch, smell, taste, sight, and feel of a space to truly know it and recall later.
A picture alone doesn’t do all that for me. I have to soak the place in first.
Try it for yourself. Put the camera down, and move beyond the role of tourist in your own life.