I was at a major sporting event earlier this year. Very glamorous, sunny, exciting, vibrant. I ate it all up with my eyes and my mind. Absorbed it, drank it in, catalogued and filed it away to pick over in the days, months, years to come. As I was doing so, I noticed that nearly all of the people around me were using their phones, their cameras, their iPads to take photos, video, etc. No doubt the man next to me had Instagrammed (is that a verb?!) and posted instantly to Facebook on his mobile given that he barely looked at the track for the first few laps. His entire flist knew exactly where he was, exactly what he had just seen. And it all got me to wondering.
Do we have better memories today, than we did in the past? Or is our instantly recorded and then published life, making big events forgettable rather than memorable? I read about wedding blogging recently, where couples live blog their big day. What?! Seriously? Why would you do that? Surely those people that want to share your special day will be there with you, forging their own memories, reinforcing yours in the years to come. I can still recall my wedding day in detail 25 years later. The bits that matter, the joy that persists. And honestly, who but me and my husband is really, truly interested in that detail? More to the point, those memories, those emotions are private, not to be displayed to an uncaring, unforgiving FaceBook/Pinterest/Instagram/YouTube world.
As the daughter of a film archivist, I grew up with the moving image very much a part of my day to day life. Images, sounds, colour, the recording and preservation of the past respected and treasured. The image is a powerful thing. It can help us retrieve memories of our own, it can help us understand the past, it can help us explore the present down to minute detail, and even let us see into the future, with images beamed from light years away in space. But at some times in our lives, our eyes are the only things capable of recording what’s important to us, what we will treasure in the future, what we will recall as we age. The pixels available to me within my camera can capture a framed view of the Monaco Grand Prix, with edges and a specific depth of field. My eyes and my brain can experience something my camera never can – the smell of the fuel, the heat of the sun, the pure brilliance of the sky, the vivid colours and sensations of an ‘event’. No camera can record the emotion I felt at being in Monaco on race day. It was a long held dream finally realised, and there’s no camera on earth that can capture how it really felt.
I worry that we are viewing a biased world for the most part with our photographing and capturing obsession. We are sold the idea that we can photograph and keep everything, that we can share the whole of our lives, and encourage others to share in our experiences, but I fear that we are losing the bigger picture of life. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t do it, but I do think we need to look out of the frame a little more. We can put down our smart phones, switch off our iPads and engage with life, real life, in all its glory, colour and vibrancy. And maybe, beyond the edges of our ‘frames’ we will see a little something extra, something special, that everyone else might be missing.