Over the weekend I went to visit friends who live near Rhinebeck, NY. It was my first time traveling anywhere since the start of the pandemic and I was really looking forward to the time with my friends.
On Sunday went to a nearby lake ti take out kayaks.
We left our phones in the car.
As we walked to the lake, I noticed the impulse that kept arising to take pictures. I tend to take a lot of pictures — not necessarily to post those pictures online, but to capture moments and memories.
As we settled into our kayaks, I took in the picture-perfect surroundings. I wanted to capture the scene of the lake, with my friends in their kayaks, floating on the water. The lily pads and the white flowers sprouting on the lake’s surface, glistening like diamonds in the mid-day sun.
Instead, I had to capture it in the movie screen of my mind. It felt uncomfortable, and also necessary.
I tend take a lot of pictures, most of which are never seen by anyone other than me.
And yet I’m often aware of how, each time I stop to take a picture, I take myself out of the moment.
As soon as I reach for my phone to snap a picture, I’m no longer participating in the moment. I’m not even observing the moment.
Taking a picture — even a candid photo — is an act of creation. By choosing where to focus the camera lens, a photographer decides what’s important and what’s worth capturing.
When I reach for the camera I shift from participating in the moment to manufacturing the moment.
We may think of taking a photograph as capturing a moment in time — documenting something that is already happening. The truth is that often we are not really documenting an existing moment.
But for the act of taking that picture, the moment wouldn’t have existed in that way.
When we reach for the camera we manufacture a moment that never truly existed in that way.
When we constantly look through the lens of the camera, we also cheat ourselves of the full-spectrum view of life. No photograph can ever fully do justice to the 3-dimensional life experience.
Our little excursion reminded me that I want to spend more time participating in life. I may not have pictures of our kayaking excursion on the lake that I can pull up or show to others, but the memory lives in my body and my heart.
Ultimately, that’s the best place for it to reside, because I know I’ll always be able to access it.