Last weekend I was a bridesmaid in the wedding of a friend. As I was getting ready to leave the house I realized that my digital camera, which I have owned since 2005, has gone to the very special place in the sky reserved for 8-Track players, VCRs, and all other retired and misfit electronic toys. I bought the camera on the eve of our first cross-country drive when digital cameras were just becoming popular. On that first drive, I took many photographs and I anticipate wanting to splurge in a similar way during our Coast to Coast trip. We’ve spent the last few weeks acquiring the clothes that we’ll need for the walk. At this point we’re pretty much outfitted, but there are a few supplies which still need some consideration before purchase. The one item featured most prominently on my contemplative wish list is a new camera.
Although you wouldn’t know it from this blog, or any other social media site, I am an avid photographer and if you’re ever in the neighborhood, I’ll gladly brew you a cup of tea and share my photographs of my travels across North America and Europe. My interest in photography began in the sixth grade when my mother, on a whim, purchased a disposable camera for me to bring along to my first dance. In this late and final era of film photography I became the historian of my adolescence and chronicled both the monotony and the ecstasy of late ’90’s middle class suburban life. Among my friends I was the scrap-booker and the record keeper. There was tremendous excitement when I would wait online at Genovese or CVS to discover my prints. Followed by considerable debate and discussion surrounding who would receive the duplicate copy of a beloved snapshot. These few photos carried tremendous meaning. We made a ritual of picking up the prints together and sharing them during a sleepover, or a basement party, or a late night rendezvous at our locally run coffee house.
Now in an age and a time where everyone is meticulously documenting every mundane aspect of their life, I am finding myself taking fewer and fewer photographs, preferring to savor a single snapshot, rather than an infinite stream of images. It seems to be common at weddings and corporate events, or any occasion with a professional photographer, that the events of the day be broadcast immediately over large flat screens, which compete for and capture the attention of the party’s participants. The recall and the event occur simultaneously. Many become wrapped up in the spectacle of the performance, pandering for the camera’s attention, whether it be the lens of the professional photographer or that of an acquaintances’ iPhone. I am often reminded of the New Yorker cover where the young couple stands in front of a Pollack-esque painting and are enraptured by the image of the painting stored in their camera, rather than the primary source before them.
Although I am sometimes hungry for images of the past decade, even the most comprehensively documented days are left with a feeling of absence. Photographs curate our life but they are not life itself. The photographer for my wedding took over a thousand photographs and thanks to file sharing on social media, I captured two thousand extra photos from wedding guests, creating a grand total of three thousand wedding photographs and six hours of video footage. Even with all of these images, I will never truly relive the day. When I kindle the most profound imagery of my wedding day, it’s with my eyes closed and my senses alert.
My gorgeously airbrushed, photoshopped, and curated album is important to me because I can share it with those who could not attend, but I prefer to only share with those who are truly interested. I recently became reacquainted with a high school friend and when she came to visit me the first thing she wanted to see was my wedding album. We sat on my couch together and I narrated a few scenes and together she and I lived a moment that helped to reposition our friendship, something that would not have happened if images of my whole life were freely available for browsing online. In our 21st C. lives, she could have seen most of my album within moments of its creation, in the privacy and confortof her own home, never having to “like” it, or “comment” upon it, or even acknowledge in any way that she 1) knew I had been married or 2) has seen the album.
I do this all the time on social media sites. I see daily photos of the babies of former acquaintances that I will probably never speak to again. We are caught in the ever-evolving etiquette and politics of social media “friendships”. We ignore one another as we lurk through the galleries of each other’s curated lives. This friend saw a glimpse of one of my only posted photos and it propelled her to write to me and discover the story behind the photo. Through the act of sharing photos, side by side, we reignited a quality friendship that had fallen by the wayside for no particular reason other than the movements associated with growing up.
In short, I love photographs; I just prefer to share in a way that is active and meaningful. As I proceed with my camera shopping I welcome your suggestions for a quality camera that will travel well on the Coast to Coast. Something light, yet something with a sharp lens.