Usually, I get pretty miffed to see everyone glued to their phones. It’s one facet of modern society that I’d happily chuck in Room 101. Too many smartphone-zombies make Sacha go crazy!! But, despite my mild irritation for it, having the option to capture life’s most epic moments at any given time is something even I wouldn’t turn my nose up at. Because, let’s face it, who wouldn’t feel a pang of guilt for missing out on photographing a rare natural wonder or taking that insta-worthy shot from a cool place you’re unlikely to walk through again any time soon? As grumpy as I am, even I couldn’t deny my thumbs a piece of that action.
However, just like with the selfie mode back to auto, there is a flip side to this perspective.
As much as we all want to preserve every special moment for future refection, does staring at the world through a camera’s eye in order to do so detract from the present beauty of seeing it through our own?
Should you solely follow the world around you through a screen then, yes. Think about it. If we only ever observed things via our phones, we’d miss out on life’s most intricate details. A bit like why you wouldn’t purely focus on your sat-nav whilst driving, taking in everything around you in detail requires your full attention.
Of course, that is not to say that momentary glances are a bad thing. In order to know where we are driving, for example, we do need to sometimes have a gander at the tom-tom. However, tantamount to findings from the psychological study where people who took random photographs of the works in an art museum later showed a poorer recollection of them (compared with the people who absorbed them with their eyes) if we do not know why we are taking a photograph, then we won’t remember the details behind it. Therefore, affecting our appreciation of the capture and stifling our enjoyment of the moment.
Again though, there is a flip side to this.
When taking more specific shots (such as the look of a brushstroke or honing in on a specific part of an object) recall of the works increased. Which, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense. If our interest is piqued naturally and processed more deeply, the yearning for capture will carry feeling, making it far more memorable.
Having a story to tell when sharing your favourite images with others is one of the best novelties of photography, right? Looking back and laughing at the story behind the photo is exactly why, back in the day, we used to take them. Our treasured photo albums that were whipped out at Christmas for an afternoon of quaint reminiscence were reserved for significant moments, like holiday snaps, wedding pictures, family occasions, birthday celebrations etc. So it’s unsurprising that those times would be well-remembered. But now we have the world at our fingertips and the ability to preserve anything and everything at any time, it might be fair to say that we’re losing sight as to what makes pictures so special. When things get too easy, we stop concentrating so hard – we don’t care as much – and inevitably, we miss out on some of life’s most important parts.
So while it’s always good to live in the moment on your travels, when there’s a time you want to encapsulate the experience, engage in doing so mindfully. Really look around and see the world through your eyes, not through a bokeh lens or phone filter. Then, when the perfect opportunity comes and you finally take that shot, you’ll always relish in remembering why you took it.