Taking Pictures

I take far too many pictures. Maybe ten a day on average, but for an “event” I can take as many as 3 or 4 hundred. It’s not a storage problem—I have a good picture-devoted hard drive. It’s more of a lifestye problem, a memories problem.

I’m afraid that one day the only memories I’ll have will be pictures. That instead of remembering my children playing I’ll remember the image of them playing. I see a look on Eve’s face and I rush for my camera because I worry that if I don’t have a picture of it I won’t remember. But what if rushing for the camera justs interrupts the process of memory-making. Am I hindering real interaction between my kids and I by wedging a camera between us?

It’s just five years after my brother’s death and already my memories are slipping away. I try to see his face and all I see are the pictures. I wonder if I should be glad for the pictures. What if I had no pictures and no memories? But, more often, I suspect that the pictures have ousted the real memories. That if they’d never been taken I might actually remember the moment.

In college I heard a lecture on living in the moment, savoring experiences, etc. and, in addition to railing against fast food (I didn’t eat McDonald’s for a month after that night), the speaker discussed the problems with photography. He noted that all of the photography terminology was so hostile; we take “shots” and “capture” subjects. He argued that taking a picture of something we enjoyed would inevitably lessen our recollection of it because the picture would never be as good as the thing itself.

I know all of this and yet I carry a camera almost everywhere I go. I guess because for me photography isn’t just about capturing something beautiful; it’s also about making something beautiful. I like the process and so, while I may not capture the essence of what I’m shooting, I’m adding to my enjoyment of it by trying.

Still, that’s not always true. Sometimes the camera does get in the way. Sometimes it does make real moments seem superficial. And so, I think I need to take fewer pictures, maybe bask in a smile from Eve instead of cataloguing it. Then I’ll have a memory that isn’t from behind a viewfinder.

The last thing I need is for my daughters to remember the pictures I took more vividly than the life we shared.