The Unphotographer

My mother holds my childhood very dearly in a couple of photobooks . She keeps them safe and doesn’t let me take any photo away from her even for a day. She used to be our family photographer until I grew old. I learned from her how to romanticize the past every now and then.

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Which is why maybe I turned to photography as soon as my beloved past started fading. This was long before social media and one picture was worth a few hundred memorable stories.

 

It’s  going to be a year of motherhood for me and I wish I could relive every single big and little moments once again. I did not photograph the way I was supposed to do. The best moments are not in my phone or camera SD card. I paid attention to each moment in a way it was still and not fleeting.

In short, my year long new motherhood is not a collection of photographs, but memorized stories- story of my husband checking our daughter’s meconium filled diaper, myself running to check the texture of her poop; story of her first laughter that made me cry out of happiness because she got that laughter gene from my dad; story of finding her taller than her crib on one warm morning; story of finding her in a corner reading all her books all by herself and wondering how that happened. This is my meditation- in a lone room, in a crowded corner, I think about this year of my life, the way I want to remember it.

In an obsessive techie house, it’s my way of celebrating this life-changing phase. Though photo taking is not the worst thing in modern life. If you are not constantly gazing at your life, at least you are photographing it for the memory. But the persistent need to capture a moment changes how we actually experience it- both in the moment and in memory when we try to recall something.

We use a photograph as a memory aid- taking pictures of a magnificent sunset,  the parking space, and the label of a tea bag to find it in grocery store . Remember those throw-back Thursday pictures on your social media feed?

I learned that every time we click a picture of something, we are  perhaps harming our memory of it. It may sound strange at first. But in reality, we are outsourcing every good moment to our camera, by not observing details,  by not living in the moment, and later by not processing our observations in memory.

Okay.

I heard what you are saying there- we use gadgets to ease our life, to outsource some tasks so that our brain can focus on more important things. We click loads of photographs of our trips to memorize it in near future ( or to share on social media ) and move to the next one. I say, this constant trip to the next thing keeps us so busy that we hardly look at what we saved to look. I have a hard disc full of photos that I have no time to check anymore.

Sometimes I feel it’s the next thing that keeps us occupied, not our past souvenirs and not our present.

 

This year as I removed photography from my  top to-do list, I realized how mindlessly I photograph events, how photographing all the time changes my perspectives: if I am in a photograph, I become distant from the event of the photo;  if I am not, I relive my experience and see more details. That is the reason I do not take selfies anymore. Selfies never retold my memory any significant story.

In previous years, I used old photographs as inspiration for my writings.  But cameras don’t always tell us brilliant stories. They are not close to what our brain is capable of with the input of our five sensory organs.

 In the era of instagram and snapchat, this might seem odd at first, as we are busily uploading, sharing, and liking photographs everywhere. But challenge yourself a photo-free day. Be with your child, experience her enthusiasm without the need of capturing and sharing. It’s not that difficult. And maybe more rewarding and more liberating than you ever imagined.  Just take a look around, see how snow wraps the neck of the mountain, how beautifully a bird blends in the sunset color, how red all leaves are suddenly in your neighborhood, how your baby grins with four new teeth. And maybe take a mental picture.

I did the same. And most probably I will do it again and again.

♥♥

15 thoughts on “The Unphotographer

  1. Christy and I have had long talks about photography – living in the moment rather than photographing.
    You’ve captured the essence of the conundrum – the eternal internal battle of someone who lives on the back side of the camera while wanting to be full and present in the moment.
    Have you read “Hold Still” by Sally Mann? Her photos are rough, raw, and controversial – this memoir explains why. Her prose reads like poetry, and her message intersects with yours.
    Your baby is so lucky to have you…I would love to see those memories captured in your mind’s photo album ❤

    1. I am practicing this whole “live in the moment” thing for two years and it’s life-changing as well as meditative; being in present cures some mental storms too.
      On the other handI love photography just too much, as a hobby, as a form of artistic presentation and sometimes a picture truly says a thousand words. But I am trying hard to control my urge to capture every good thing before I move to the next one. So I made a rule for myself- I will watch a sunset first, and then put my lens at it. Hope it helps me to remember the significance of each passing great moment. Thank you for sharing your thought, Michelle. I am going to order “Hold Still” right away. Thank you for the recommendation. ❤

  2. Yes! Good post. We need to be more present in our lives – the truth is I rarely look at photos of when my kids were small (but this was before tech and cameras had film, so not as many pix were taken). I’m glad I have them, but the truth is the present moment is where life really is.

    1. You are very right, Eliza. I don’t look at most of the photographs I captured over the years. I am trying to minimize all the clutters and be just in the present. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this wisdom, Eliza. 🙂

    1. Yes, and I love photography- the technicalities, the art, and the stillness of holding a moment. But in the age of oversharing, the urge of capturing and sharing everything kind of kills the essence of photography. Thank you for the encouragement. 🙂

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