Tuesday, August 13, 2019

"Why I Stopped Taking Pictures"

This post harkens back to the “Inherit The Wind” speech I posted about cultural “bargains”, as in “… you may have a telephone; but you give up privacy, and the charm of distance.”  The “trade-offs” of modernity.  Can you guess which side I’m on?

The short version of this story for those in a hurry or who don’t care much is this:

I stopped taking pictures because it got too easy.

“You call that a reason?”

Thistime I do.  

Everyone likes “easy.” Including myself.  I spent big bucks on a fancy remote, allowing me to access Netflix without three remotes, which I couldn’t do, so I couldn’t watch Netflix, even though I was paying for it, which was disturbing, even to Netflix.

NETFLIX:  “Not really.”

You weren’t curious about that?


Okay.  Sorry I woke you.

Here’s how old I am.

I remember when, to take pictures, you had to load film into the camera.

I know.  I’m ancient.  Paleontologists are studying me now.

Did I likeloading film into the camera?

Do I soundlike I would enjoy “spooling”?  Congenital awkwardness aside, with my greasy fingers loading the film, many of my pictures looked like a thumb.

So here’s what we did, Dr. M and myself.  Though she is notcongenitally awkward.  

(Note:  For confidentiality reasons, Dr. M does not like me mentioning her in my blog.  I think her patients should knows he‘s not congenitally awkward.  Who knows?  It could lead to a breakthrough.  “My mother was congenitally awkward and I projected that on you.  I’m cured!”)  (“Oh, Earl. You’re so silly.”)


What we did – because we had booked a photographic safari to Kenya and we wanted to know what to do – was we signed up at nearby Santa Monica Community College for a class called “Photo 1”, for people who don’t know anything, and their adept spouses who do but can always learn more.

They taught us to load the film into the camera, and many other tidbits as well, including how to change lenses, making far-off rhinos appear dangerously close.

I actually no longer recall much of what they taught us, but I remember the film and the lenses.  Of which we took sixty – boxes of film, not lenses – and three lenses to Africa. 

Here’s the thing, which does not apply anymore because taking pictures got easy.

When you took pictures when taking pictures was harder, whatever came out stemmed from personal effort, not high-tech “apps” making all pictures look perfect.  

There was a sense of accomplishment in that process, which – he argues herein – now no longer exists.

Just as all creative endeavors, no matter how they’re delivered, boil down to “quality content”, taking pictures, in my view, boils down qualitatively to the ability to know a “good picture” opportunity when you see one, and to know where to stand when you’re taking it.

To my knowledge, there is no app on your Smartphone that will tell you, “That’s nothing.”  Or “It’s good, but you are standing in the wrong place to capture it.  And even wecan’t fixthat.”

As a result, back then – as people from “back then” like to say – the great feeling of taking a great picture was all yours.  (Plus, there was the jangly sensation of racing to Fotomat – where they developed the film, kids – to see how you did.  Actually raced there once, and was duly rewarded with "They''ll be ready tomorrow,") 

Today, it’s “That sucks”, and you take fifty more pictures to try and do better, half of which you didn’t mean, forgetting to take your thumb off of the button.  Then you have ten thousand pictures, and you can’t find the “good” one.

Effort.  Excitement.  The joyful delight of self-produced greatness.


That’s why I stopped taking pictures.

They may be better now, and easier to take.

But it’s like I didn’t take them.

My phone did.  


Mike Barer said...

Great commentary.

JED said...

I love my digital camera. I know that I got the shot right away instead of waiting to get the film developed and then find out I messed up. And you still have to (or should) put the effort into framing the picture correctly.