As a photographer, I’ve always just kind of assumed the duties of turning the present moment into the past without ever considering the downfalls of that or, rather, without ever even realizing there were downfalls in the first place. It’s just who I am. I photograph people, smiles, laughter, cries, love, rebellion… I photograph moments, capture time at its most powerful junctures all in the name of preserving that specific instant for future reference. After all, isn’t that what photographers are supposed to do? We capture important moments, how could that be a bad thing?
Then I happened across ‘The Instagram Generation’, a short, philosophical performance film, which opens up with a statement that, admittedly, cut right through to my core as it somewhat covertly questioned the very existence I have come to love as a cameraman…
“The ‘Instagram Generation’ now experiences the present as an anticipated memory.”
Let me start by saying, I rarely use Instagram. I don’t feel like I need to photograph my breakfast every morning, nor do I require myself to document and share how bored I am waiting in the holding room at the doctor’s office, but I am always looking for photographs. Even when I don’t have a camera. In an effort completely out of my control, my eyes and brain constantly see the world as a series of photo opportunities, whether I have a camera in my hand or not.
So, yes, despite my reluctance to adapt Instagram into my routine, I most certainly do experience the present as an anticipated memory. This is not a quality unique to me. Most photographers are this way and, in my own biased opinion, all photographers should at least practice the trait on occasion.
The debate here, and also the part that sent me off into a moment of introspection, is the possibility that we could somehow be missing the actual experience of living in the moment because we are too busy anticipating how we can preserve it as a photograph–a tangible memory. And, furthermore, what is the actual impact doing so is having on our lives?
If I were asked to detail some of the finer experiences in my life, I’d probably instinctively come back with an answer about how I was able to get the shot, not what I was doing there in the first place. Not because I don’t remember the experience or don’t feel like I was truly a part of it, I have those memories, too. It’s just that, for me personally, documenting it is a large part of what created the joy that surrounded the moment. To me, that’s okay. Actually, that is choice. As the host of the Shots Of Awe clip, Jason Silva, explains, it’s as though I have the luxury of experiencing the same moment from two different perspectives.
“We’re living in two different realities at the same time. It’s what Daniel Kahneman used to refer to as the experiencing self and the remembering self and they’re working in concert. They’re saying, be happy for this moment, for this moment is your life, but guess what? This moment is going to be gone like this and all you’re going to have left is that photo filter vintage photograph. All you’re going to have left is how you chose to remember this moment so you’re given a pen. You’re given a chance to decide how this moment will be remembered. We all become artists, we all become architects of our mental narratives, of our historical digital paper-trail. We decide who we are. We’re building maps, and those maps are subjective. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. … I think it liberates our desire to be artists. “
Now, I ask you the same thing I asked myself: Is your compulsive act of photographing moments hindering your ability to reflect or does it work in a more helpful way by allowing you to shape your memories? Leave us a comment with your opinion and insights below!
[ via Huffington Post ]