Saturday, February 24, 2007

Photos and the Moment

Why do we bring cameras on trips? We love to share your experience; we want to hold tangible evidence of the voyage; we need visual reminders of adventure when a lifestyle of commuting and cubicles becomes route. A bad day at the office? Open up the photo book and remember that we will always have Casablanca.

But the process of capturing the moment can result in a total loss of being there. Last September I took a three tour in the remote southwest corner of Bolivia. We navigated through the world's largest salt plains, the world's dryest desert, 15,500 geysers, and pink flamingos feeding in red and green lakes. Vicunas (wild llamas) dotted the treeless scape. The landscape was surreal, as the lack of oxygen enabled the views to stretch for miles.

I traveled in a jeep with a guide and five fellow travelers. An older French Canadian couple, a thirtysomething French couple, and a young Catalonian. Everyone came with cameras in hand. As we came upon each extraordinary vista, the jeep would stop for a photo oppurtunity. The men of each couple would shoot before looking, eagerly filling up their expansive memory cards with momentos. By the morning of the final day, each couple had more than 500 pictures. For the exception of the herds of vicunas, the vistas were not going anywhere.

With the onset of digital photography. we can afford to shoot mistakes. If one shoots a hundred shots, at least one will turn up right.

In this way photography can be a refusal of the moment. The moment is not something separate from ourselves, something that must be caught as it flees. Time is endless, it is the only thing we can be sure that will never run out. We can structure our lives to convince ourselves that we are short on it, but this is only an illusion.

Jordy, the Catalonian, waited for his oppurtunity. He walked around, breathing into the scene before setting up his shots. Funny enough, he is a professional photographer. His shots came only after careful observation, as opposed to indiscriminate firing. And perhaps that is why he is successful with what he does.

The moment is there for the taking. The best photography is a merger with the moment, as opposed to an outsider's observation of it. Let the camera be a tool for merging with the inner.


No comments: