Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ever-present photography (and why it's a problem)

Pull-ups are not enough --
I must have a photo of the pull-ups
I've a column with the Sydney Morning Herald's 'Life and Style' today, 'Ever-present photography (and why it's a problem)'.

I'm taking issue, not with photography itself -- which I esteem as an art form -- but with its use as a distraction. A sample:
Yes, photography can engage our eyes and mind: framing, light balance, colour, timing. But it can also provide an diversion from the mess of life. In other words: it's often not the snaps that are the problem – it's the restless snapping. 
A photograph of a scene is not that scene – it is a two-dimensional likeness. It is missing, not only the sensory information – from smell, to touch, to proprioception, the "inner" feeling of our body's position – but also the intimate significance of the situation. We are not simply eyes and ears, recording – we are also creatures of apprehension and doubt, expectation and regret, responding moment-by-moment to shifting experience. 
Taking a photo or video takes our minds out of this thicket of reality we're inhabiting, and puts it into the viewfinder's safe clearing. We don't pause to reflect on our feelings or thoughts: we flee to the neatly framed, literally shallow, pixels. 
In other words, ubiquitous photography can be a distraction from a more fraught, awkward or intense response to life. So the problem is not necessarily the imagery – it's the avoidance it enables. And the technology does not force us to do this. It is a human, all-too-human urge for ease: instead of confronting life, we turn away to a kitsch scene with a schmick filter.

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