He slapped the camera out of my hand, “Why do you always have to take a picture of everything? Why can’t you just enjoy life?”
This camera snatching incident recently surfaced to my foggy memory and I’ve been thinking about it, I think because Thanksgiving is in like three seconds and holidays are an occasion for beautiful photographs with family and friends.
That incident along with those exact words, I have heard echo across the social media since then: mainly, mommy blogging sites struggling to refocus attention on the family.
In the moment this jerk from my youth’s past barked that command at me, I had no answer for it. I felt guilty that apparently life wasn’t enjoyable enough for me without a camera in my hand. This was years before I knew that my first son was even a whisper in my thoughts, before I was taking hundreds of photos of his angelic eyelashes.
To this day, I have teetered on embarrassment that I take such a joy out of photographing subjects like orange peels, blades of grass, my sleeping children, or my cup of coffee.
Despite resolving that I am cutting out mental clutter, I still got lured into this mommy site snail mail a few days ago:
It wasn’t until I read this chirpy guilt-the-mommy post that I really thought about what’s wrong with telling people how to enjoy life, or with telling them that they aren’t at all.
At the end of this specific post, the author changes her tone by saying:
“Yes, we’ll take the obligatory Christmas morning photo, but one or two with my DSLR, not 30 or 40 with my iPhone. It’s about quality, not quantity. It’s about being selective. It’s time for me to put my camera down.”
If you don’t have a DSLR, sucks to your assmar.
I don’t mean to bash the author or her point. She’s on to something. Feeling guilt and questioning our purpose for our actions is not a bad thing. Guilt, contrary to what our culture tells us, is meant to keep us mindful of our actions, and is necessary for self discovery and subsequent self-betterment; and then we can move on, released from regret.
I don’t think the problem is with taking too many photographs.
I dissect this thought into two categories:
Category 1. Addressing the problem:
I think the deeper issue, that the author of this post doesn’t quite reach, is that perhaps in taking and posting so many photos, we are finding ourselves feeling like we have to keep up with our materialistic culture.
Perhaps we are feeling the need– better yet, the pressure to prove that we have the best of the material world while overlooking special moments with our family.
I think the author of this specific post stopped short at blaming her photo-snapping smart phone, not considering why, exactly, she felt like she was missing out on engaging with her children.
Sharing our beautiful moments isn’t a bad thing! We should share those moments as a testimony to life and love. But the problem arises when we are only sharing those moments in anticipation of how it will be viewed, liked, and perhaps envied by others.
We can’t blame a smart phone for that. This takes an internal examination of our conscience, and a willingness to question our purpose for our actions.
I understand that there has to be a balance between standing on the sidelines of our family’s moments, and getting on the floor and engaging our family members: smelling sweet, baby hair, cherishing tiny arms clinging to my neck, and delighting at the smashed, soggy graham crackers in my hair. Yum-oh.
Of course there’s a balance.
But don’t we all know that already? If we’re honest with ourselves, aren’t we aware of that balance, and where the scale tips for each of us?
Category 2. Addressing how we enjoy life:
Why, if taking photographs is how I enjoy life and its beauty and its moments, is that bad, according to someone who doesn’t?
I think the jerk who snatched the camera out of my hands didn’t understand that I already knew that beauty cannot simply be captured and framed and contained.
That’s the mystery, and why I take joy in photography:
Beauty, the wonder at God’s (the first and greatest Artist) creation, is yes, visibly present and we may attempt to capture those glimmers however brilliant or fleeting they may be. But if you ask any honest person who takes a bunch of photos of their kids, they’ll tell you what everyone already knows: we are capturing pieces of a grander story, of a grander work of art designed by the Divine Hand. Just pieces. We know that.
But it’s not because we can’t enjoy life without a camera in our hand. The camera is an extension of our hand. This is how we enjoy and appreciate life’s moments.
Who is to slap that away and tell me I’m looking though a filter? I view it as a magnifying glass.
It would be like telling the pianist to stop playing so much and enjoy the music by dancing;
the dancer to stop dancing so much and enjoy the music by sitting;
the actor to stop acting because he should be hawking down some popcorn;
the painter to stop painting the roses because he should be smelling them…
Maybe the photographer’s (however amateur or professional) vision of the world is in a higher definition in witnessing a moment of beauty, than the person who doesn’t see a reason to snap a picture at all. In the same way, we could apply this thinking to the Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick Maker. Life itself is beauty.
Snap away, mom friends. Don’t feel guilty for one second for taking 50 shots of your little boy or girl’s first loose tooth. Just don’t post them all on Facebook. Just one. YOU’RE ONLY ALLOWED ONE! Otherwise you don’t know how to enjoy life. Barf.
So that’s me, breakin’ it down like a fraction for yeh.
What do you think? Is this just a black and white topic? Am I way off?
~Blessed John Paul The Great, from his Letter to Artists (1999)