“Picture” is the new “World”

courtesy of justthatproductions.com

Pictures are everywhere these days. No one sees anything without first looking at it through a screen.

I’ll bet that if you look out on the street at this very moment, more than half of the people (probably closer to 90%) walking by are looking at their little screens.

That is their world. It is their perception of the world.

Is it that through globalization humanity’s concept of our planet and its vastness, its billions of people all thrusting and grabbing and moving, is just too much for our little brains to absorb? That we must, therefore, contain it, shrink it, peer at it through a manageably-sized window?

Or is it simply screen addiction?

When I was a child, Polaroid cameras were all the rage and people snapped pictures of everything, marvelling at the instantaneousness of it all. But they were also expensive and this obsession didn’t last long.

For the most part, 35 mm cameras were the norm. And disk cameras – does anyone remember those? I think my first camera was a disk camera.

Anyway, processing film was by no means instantaneous, nor was it particularly cheap and, as such, the average person did not take 20 pictures of the same scene – unless, of course, they were photographers, which is an entirely different matter.

They also didn’t take pictures of every single moment of life, capturing it forever as if memories couldn’t hold it.

Today, in the digital age, pictures don’t need to be processed and are right there, free, the moment you take them. Now it’s as though we all collectively fear mass amnesia and have to capture every second with a click. Because we can.

On the plus side, this has allowed the average person to take some truly remarkable pictures and even to capture special memories in a beautiful and frameable way. Anyone can play at being a photographer.

But on the downside, our concept of our wide world has faded, or maybe morphed, and now exists almost entirely through the small rectangular screen in each of our hands.

We no longer can go for a walk in the woods and simply enjoy our beautiful planet; instead we have to take pictures of it, at every angle, as if we were trying to capture it or tame it or own a little piece of it.

I’m as guilty of this as the next person.

I have thousands of pictures. Pictures of my son, of the trees, the sky, the moon, flowers. And in the moment, while I took each of them, I’m sure I was appreciating them and thinking of their beauty, of how special the subject or occasion was.

But can I say I was really connecting with my subject?

Was I really in the moment, living and breathing it?

I don’t think I was. I think the screen sets us apart a bit, distances us from this wonderful thing we are trying to keep forever. Perhaps it is this distance which fuels the fear of forgetting the moment, driving us to keep on snapping those picutres.

Sometimes it is better to leave the camera behind and immerse oneself in the experience. To BE rather than to capture.

Why do you need a picture of that? Can’t you remember it? And if you take a picture, will you experience the moment through your other senses, or will they fade away? Will you hear the sounds, smell the scents, or will you be so engrossed in fitting the scene perfectly into that rectangular screen, that everything else fades? That you fade, because you are no longer a participant?

I think it’s time that we try life without so many pictures.

Let’s leave our cameras behind, fight the urge to capture everything, and go out into the world, engage all our senses and be in the moment, without pictures.

Let’s go out and find the World again.

Go on, try it. I dare you. I’ll do it too.

I guarantee you will not forget what you see.

Related:

An Opaque Perspective on the 21st Century, or, Together in the Clouds (paxlupo.com)

Today’s daily prompt directed us to choose the 4th and 14th words from another blog to fill in the blanks in the following phrase, “ ______ is the new ______”. Technically, we were supposed to choose our favourite blog, but that’s a hard one. I don’t think I can pick a favourite. So, I just worked my way down the list on the right side of my site until I found a phrase that inspired me.

116 thoughts on ““Picture” is the new “World”

  1. Thank you for writing about this. 🙂 This is something I think of often. I’m a photographer, and I live in a beautiful landscape, but I know the importance of immersing myself in nature, in the moment, and with the people I’m around, without feeling the need to capture photos of it all. It makes a huge difference to leave the cameras and cell phones at home, or at least out of reach.

    • Thank you for your comment. I certainly differentiate between a photographer doing their thing, but agree that even then, if you don’t put the camera down at some point, you can never quite immerse yourself. It is definitely hard to do, though!

  2. Hi, could you please tell me how the PING works! I’m at the end of my wits with trying to figure it out! 😦

    • HI – you just copy and paste the links to other bloggers’ related posts into your own post. And you use the links that show up under the daily prompt itself, on the prompt page. Hope that helps!

  3. Very thoughtful and well written. 🙂

    Yes, I remember disc cameras – lol – we had one in the house – but by that time I had already expropriated my father’s 35mm and was wandering the world with it. (Not literally “the world” but my spaces)

    I think I’m lucky – I live in an area where digital is either really expensive or non-existent. I don’t own a cell phone – no point – although it would be really great in case of road emergencies – because there is no coverage for about 1 hour in all directions. And since I’m not going to the city much, why pay for something I don’t need. And when I did have a cell phone years ago – they kept trying to “upgrade.” My answer was – and still would be – unless it can do my dishes and wipe my — well never mind – you get the picture – I don’t want anything more than a simple telephone. To make and receive calls. Period. End of story. People just don’t get that.

    I think it’s important to disconnect and reconnect. It certainly is handy to have a device at hand when there is something utterly striking – but I too think this worldly obsession with constant “connectivity” has dulled our senses, We may *think* we are sharper and more attuned – but truthfully many are simply over-blasted and bombarded. Too much info results in deadening of the senses. The brain can no longer process or function properly. Scientific studies have proven this – well before all this mayhem was in full swing. And so, I ask, how convenient is this?

    • Totally! In fact, on Saturday, I had to get away from all screens and take a long walk so that i could focus on something far away. My eyes were exhausted and my brain was fried. Just looking at a point far away for a while helped immensely. In fact, when I came home and wrote about home sweet home, I wrote with a pen and paper…of course, I did snap a picture while I was out on my walk because I’m as bad as the next person and cutting out the screens altogether!

      My husband and son were talking about this on the weekend as well – they went for another long run and my husband had said there was no need to bring a camera, that it was better to be in the moment and focus on the run and the woods. So true!

      • Lol — sometimes we just can’t help ourselves, but I think at least being aware of our actions and decisions goes a long way to our being responsible. There really is nothing quite as restorative as being unplugged – lol, yup, the irony of this posting action 🙂

    • Or disc cameras, I’m sure! My son found an old 35 mm for sale at his school fair and bought it for my husband. He kind of understands but isn’t sure why you’d go with something that doesn’t provide instant gratification!

  4. Great article! I am a photographer and I often have to drag myself away from the camera. One day last week after I had had a long nine hour day on the computer, my boyfriend and I decided to head down to the beach and watch the sunset. I caught myself sitting there taking pictures of the sunset with my Iphone instead of enjoying it. Sometimes all of the technology and fun gadgets are hard to put down, but it’s a must to enjoy the world right in front of you : ).

    • I do the same and it’s funny on the one hand, but definitely a way of thinking that I’d like to change. If you think about the sunsets you look at through your own eyes, I think they seem so much more brilliant and expansive. There is a certain connection you can experience watching nature that the screen somehow breaks down. Thank you for your comment!

  5. Very well written! I thoroughly agree. Nowadays, many people cannot live without their “screens” as you say. They connect more with their “screens” than their subjects. I even find myself taking pictures instead of enjoying special moments with my extended family or in nature. As carlie chew photography and design said, it’s more amazing to “enjoy the world right in front of you.”
    Excellent photographs, they are simply stunning!!! Thanks a bunch for sharing!
    ~The writer

    • Thank you for your comment. I think we all find ourselves slipping into the habit but it is so rewarding to enjoy immersing oneself in the moment – I think (I hope!) the more we experience that joy, the more we will think about it and value it.

  6. I totally agree, I find myself saying – I don’t want to be one of those people and put my camera/phone away. Memories cannot be made if you’re on the outside. Where is the fun in that? Thanks for your post!

    • Thanks for your comment. It is a hard thing to turn off, but rewarding. The first step is becoming aware that we’re doing it. I still find it hard, though!

  7. Perhaps drawing classes should be mandatory. I was a happy snapper from my teenage years onwards (ah, the Seventies!). In my thirties, I spent a semester part-time in a drawing class and it completely changed my perspective. The details start to pop. I’m looking at a storage box that sits just above my computer screen. The light has created small areas of shade in the creases along its surface. There are uneven reflections on the metal studs and handle, disrupted by the scratches of years of handling. I still take photos … digital even … but, thanks to those drawing lessons, I think I’ve got the balance right.

    • That’s a wonderful perspective and different take on the idea of capturing a scene without the screen. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I like to sketch every now and then and you are absolutely right – it just doesn’t occur to me as often as pulling out the camera does.

  8. On our interrail trip we ended up not taking a lot of pictures, and I think I have a pretty good memory of how it was 😀

  9. A great post! I was actually sitting at work today and wondering about how much photography has changed. And decided to wrote a blog post on this. I come back home, turn on the computer and… voila! It’s already been done…
    Digitalization has made photography available and afforrdable to much more people, including myself. However, it is true that something worthwile has been stripped at the same time.
    Very well done on the two-word challenge!

    P.S. I might still write my take on it though 😉

  10. The problem is what is real and what is staged. Sometimes the staged is better received than the real. With camera phones and new technology the camera is everywhere. Pictures are everywhere on the internet one can find pretty much everything. Gravity makes us feel like we are in outer space. The film and photographs are to realistic. The real pictures are pretty close to the made up pictures. Pretty soon we will not know what is real and what is not.

    • That is quite true. Thank you for introducing this perspective to the conversation. I hadn’t thought of that but I agree. A whole other level to consider.

  11. Nice post.I agree with the core of your piece, which I take to be that participation and awareness is more important than fabrication of (false) memory.

    I always carry a camera, my usually Sony Nex 5, but I’m never ~waiting~ for a picture or looking for one. The image is not the event, it is an artifact. Perhaps I always carry a camera because I’ve been taking pictures all my life and I’ve archived some remarkable people in some remarkable places. But if the objects and events around you are mundane, and you don’t use the camera to enhance or refine your perspective, then what you’re doing is substituting a fantasy for awareness.

  12. I enjoyed reading your post! What a great observation about how our world has changed. I too have been guilty of focusing so much on capturing the right picture than enjoying and savoring the experience. I’m up for the challenge to find the world again…to try life by engaging in my senses and being in the moment.

  13. Yes, since I spend so much time commuting back and forth to work, I have time to look up at the cloud formations or out the window to see nature at it’s best – such beauty. Hey, I remember cameras with flash bulbs, both the single ones and the block ones that would turn (4 flashes).

    • It’s a good sign that you can contemplate the clouds without feeling you need to snap a picture of them!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts – I think I remember the block flashes too. I hadn’t thought of that.

  14. Great post! I agree with you that in this generation it’s hard for many people to leave their houses without some form of technology. Sometimes it seems like we become so accustomed to it that we’re afraid to venture out into the world without our cameras or phones. The technology becomes like a shield. I think photography is wonderful, but at the same time we have to know when to experience the world through our senses.

    • Exactly! Taking pictures is fine but we need to experience life without taking pictures more often. I agree with your comparison to a shield – that’s a great analogy.

      • Thanks! Yeah, taking pictures is a cool art form. It is important to make sure there’s a balance between taking pictures and then experiencing life without a camera.

  15. This is an excellent piece you’ve written here!
    In the past, I was engrossed in bringing my DSLR to hangouts with friends because I wanted to capture memories that I could later fondly look back upon. Eventually, the charm of taking photographs of my friends wore off and I became tired of taking photo’s of them. I also realized that I wasn’t really enjoying my time with them so now I only take out my DSLR for the really special occasions just to take a couple snaps here and there.

  16. Beautifully written! Me and my boyfriend often feel bad that when we re together we always forget to take pictures of us together; in spite of loving photography. Now I realise why…Living the moment over powers our will to capture the moment! Great post! Cheers!

  17. Hey! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. So excited for you! I totally tried this out in August when we went on a family trip back to the States. I was phone-less for two weeks which also meant I was camera less since i didn’t bring a separate camera with me. I did feel as if I was missing some great shots, and I ended up with very little documentation from this trip BUT wow did I experience this like i haven’t experienced anything in a long time. Disconnect to connect again — it works

    • Thanks! It is rather exciting – lots of action and comments and reblogs. You know all about that, though!
      It’s so hard to disconnect and not take the pictures (or take that next step and post them all on social media) but I have been feeling like I am missing out on the experiences so it’d definitely something I need to try to do. Good to have the added reassurance that it works 🙂

  18. Right on! People these days take pictures of every step and every corner of every place they go to – almost everything actually. I take your dare and hopefully more people will also do. Let’s enjoy what the world has to offer the most natural way – through our senses!

    • Yes! Glad to hear you’re up for it. And you are totally right – people take SEVERAL pictures of every step and every corner. We definitely need to readjust how we see and how we are in the world.

  19. Lately I’ve been obsessed with photography, taking a lot of pictures wherever I’m in nature. This is something to think about for me… It’s something about sharing my happiest moments with the world: do you see the beauty like I see? Do you feel the moment how I feel? Gives so much joy if somebody agrees with you, but also brings out dissapointment if nobody comments or likes your picture. Seeking acknowledgement and gaining selthworth – this is it for me. But you have a point there…

    • But does something which was originally beautiful to you become less beautiful when others don’t see what you see? Maybe you appreciate beauty more deeply, or differently, than others.
      There are certainly times to take photos and to share them, but we must be aware of how that changes our ability to interact with an event or our surroundings. Does being behind the camera put us a step apart from the subject? Does putting the camera down and stepping into the scene bring us closer to the subject?
      Thanks for your comment!

  20. I thought the same thing a couple of years ago when I went to a fireworks show on July 4. Instead of enjoying the show–live and in person–many people were busy capturing it on their cellphones.

    • I know what you mean, and it’s funny because the best thing about fireworks is their grandness as they explode overhead. You miss all that if you’re looking at them through a tiny screen!

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