“The payoff is that you have this record”

I love this quote, attributed to Charles Eames

There has been a lot of ink (pixels?) spilled lately on this idea that we’re so obsessed with Tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming the important moments of our lives that we’re not actually living them. NY Times technology reporter Nick Bilton recently wrote about fiddling with his iPhone to capture a gorgeous sunset, then realizing that he couldn’t simply appreciate the sunset without trying to share the experience with his social networks.

Bilton was so distressed by this that he made a 2012 resolution to go without his iPhone for at least 30 minutes a day, a goal that seems so ridiculously attainable I’m frightened for his well-being. He only has to be without his phone for 30 minutes? How about restricting iPhone use to only 30 minutes a day?

I don’t have as much trouble detaching from my phone (although I do take it everywhere), but I’ve been wrestling with this concept that documenting has to come at the expense of enjoying. When I see something incredible, I make a flash decision. I either flick my phone into camera mode or plunge into my purse for my camera, which is sometimes—often—already around my neck. (Sometimes I do both, camera in one hand, phone in the other.) If I’m walking, I definitely have to stop. I admit to dancing around trying to get the best angle. It changes the experience for sure. But do I miss it? Not at all. Having the photographic evidence of that memory is totally worth that second or two I spent deciding how to capture it. And yes, sharing is important, I guess. But I share mostly because I want to work through what the images mean to me. And writing a Tweet or posting it to my blog is how I do that. It’s like processing the moment.

I was trying to put this all in words for the last few weeks. But who would have guessed that Charles Eames said it more beautifully than I ever could have—50 years ago? When, I might add, it took a heck of a lot more time and effort to make a photograph.

You can see this illustrated quote, among others, at Eames Words, a show at the A+D Museum which has just been extended until February 20. Yesterday co-curator Andrew Byrom graciously gave de LaB a tour of the exhibition, and it’s absolutely fantastic. Of course, I took plenty of photos.

This entry was posted in Street Walker. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Jorge Colombo

    I’d rather enjoy something great for just five minutes AND grab an image that’ll last forever, than enjoy it for five hours but with no pictures. That’s just me; others may be better at living the moment in real time. The sharing is more of a byproduct. Strictly speaking it is superfluous — like small chatting, or smiling at people — but it brings friendly notes to our lives. It’s like going to a great restaurant: most people prefer to go with others, don’t they? 

  • Pingback: photography…lose immediate experience vs. having a record of that moment… « am i?