Let’s slow down with all the pictures

Y’all, I love taking pictures.  I had to delete about a hundred from my iPhone so I could update to IOS7.  I took over 2,700 photos while I studied abroad and have spent hours upon hours making scrapbooks to memorialize my life experiences.

I love photography as an art and secretly wish I’d have pursued it as a more of a hobby. I love looking through others’ wedding photos and baby pictures and albums that allow me to re-live wonderful moments.  I feel blessed to live in a time when photography is so accessible and inexpensive, and I’m thankful I can document my life for my family, friends, and for future generations.

In light of all this, something about picture-taking bothers me.  I can’t quite put my finger on it perfectly, but I think it has something to do with the attitude towards photography we’ve developed.  Now, know I’m not discussing professional photography here—that is something that is always loved and valued.  What I mean mostly is the quick pics we take on a day-to-day basis.  The ones we snap with our phones and instantly upload to social media.

PictureTakingI don’t think it’s bad to post pictures—I’d be the biggest hypocrite if I said that.  I just think we might need to reevaluate our intentions when doing so (as we should in all areas of life). We should ask, Am I posting this photo to share glimpses of my life with loved ones, or am I showing-off the cool people I’m with?  Or thinking it makes me look really good?  Or boasting the fun evening I’m having that’s way better than yours?  It’s when picture-taking turns into bragging that I think we have a problem, and that’s a very easy line to cross.

It has little to do with what or how often we post and much more to do with why—with the attitude of our hearts.  It has to do with how it makes us act around other people—if we’re living in the moment or just looking for the next photo-op.  As much as I love to capture moments, I never want to be so focused on taking good pictures that I waste valuable quality time with others.

When I studied abroad in Europe two years ago, I took my camera everywhere.  On my first trip, we went to Ireland, and I spent a particularly long day out visiting different places and taking pictures the whole time.  Needless to say, by dusk my camera had died.  I was devastated when it happened and probably pouted for a while, but there was nothing I could do about it.  I took a couple pictures with my phone that didn’t turn out very well, so I resigned.  And that was the best decision I could have made.

Without a working camera, my eyes switched from “scanning-for-a-pretty-picture” mode to “soak-it-in” mode.  I felt unburdened and at home in my surroundings.  I felt carefree as I simply enjoyed the beautiful green grass around me and the wonderful friends I was with.  My experiences became secrets that I could always cherish, instead of personal moments exposed to everyone I know.  And as the months of our study abroad trip unfolded, we all developed this saying,

“Your eyes are the best camera you have.”

We refused to get upset when our cameras died on us time after time.  We realized that sometimes living in the moment means capturing it in your heart and memory—a place much more special and, honestly, much more important.

I know this seems strange for me to say, as you click over to Facebook and see my 50 photo albums and mobile uploads.  Trust me, I know.  There’s no denying I take pictures, and that’s why I’m writing this post to me too.  I get annoyed with myself when I find that I’m taking more pictures than having conversation or maybe actually looking at the scene around me.  But the part that bothers me most is the mindset I maintain in these moments—one that’s thinking “Ooo, this will be a cute one!”  And “I can’t wait for people to see this!”

We’ve come to think in terms of “what can I capture and show off to others?”  When maybe we should try to think, “am I being present in this moment?”  You don’t have to feel guilty every time you post a photo online or think you look good in it.  And you definitely don’t have to stop taking pictures altogether.  But you should consider your motives and whether or not you’re missing out on something more precious than a picture.  It’s something I’m trying to work on too.  At the end of the day, pictures will fade, social media will grow outdated, and you’ll be left with only your memory’s photo album.  So make it full, and make it lovely.

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