Don’t forget to look up

As an amateur photographer I understand the want to get ‘the photo’ – the best photo and share it with everyone, and say ‘I was there’. But increasingly I’m noticing that when I’m at an event, there are so many photos being taken by people, that I worry they aren’t actually enjoying the experience of being there.

so many cameras, can you spot Michael?
So many cameras, but can you spot the Michael lookalike?

The surge in popularity of Instagram and the ease of having a decent camera in your phone has turned everyone into buddy photographers. I found it very strange at a wedding recently when I went to my hotel room for a little break between the ceremony and wedding breakfast, to find a photo of myself already up and tagged on Facebook. I was looking at a picture of myself in the clothes I was still wearing, taken 20 minutes before hand. It was very odd! But this access to tech and cameras has created a world of little snappers, so eager to show “I was here” rather than totally enjoying where they are.

An example of this was when I went to see Bon Iver last October at the Hammersmith Apollo. I was sat three rows from the front of a balcony and in front was a girl who spent the first 20 minutes taking photos on her phone of the gig and uploading them to instagram. By the last 20 minutes of the show she was reviewing the photos she’d taken before and showing them to her friend. I almost screamed at her “you’re missing what’s in front of you!” She seemed so bothered about sharing her experience with people who weren’t there rather than actually experiencing it herself.

I noticed this again only two weeks ago when I visited La Compagnie Carabosse in Campbell Park. It was part of the IF festival which pops up every year in Milton Keynes. Staged in the evening just as the sun went down, the park was transformed into a maze of fire sculptures and music. The whole thing was immense and unusual but spoiled for me at first by the fact that everyone was taking photos and no one was looking up. I’m sure when they got home they were surprised by how boring their picture of a log on fire was (x20 because for some reason people just stood and kept taking loads of pictures of the same really mundane aspects).  It made me feel sad that everyone was seeing the experience through their view finders.

On Gary and my recent trip to Paris and also to a family wedding, he told me not to take my SLR camera. Ever the photographer I wanted to get the best and most interesting photos of everywhere I went. But I’m glad he persuaded me to leave it behind. Yes it’s great to get The Photo, but I was able to relax and enjoy my surroundings without the baggage and there were plenty of great photos I got with my compact. (I’m starting to realise that it doesn’t really matter the size of the camera if you’re going to get a great shot.) You don’t have to get a shot of EVERYTHING in order to prove you’ve been somewhere and experienced something. Our obsession with sharing everything is a strange and new behaviour and I’m starting to find it a little tiring.

I’m off to the Olympic park on Tuesday and people keep telling me to take loads of photos. I will take my camera and I’ll take pictures of the park and the cauldron (hopefully), but I very much doubt I will shoot the events. (These runners are so fast that I’ll miss whole races!) I want to take in every single second, and even though no one else will see exactly what I see, at least I’ll have the experience and the memory – after all, it’s me who will be there and these are my memories.

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