Thursday, 15 March 2012

Life without a lens

I have come to the decision that the death of the film camera is a loss that should be mourned, as it seems to have led to the death of privacy and all things sacred. Well no, that’s obviously a bit far-fetched, but don’t you ever feel like cameras are in your face wherever you turn? Of course in this day and age where developing a film is basically obsolete, the quantity of photos we can take knows no end and has no cost, and therefore we seem to be obsessed with it. Of course, I am guilty of this myself, which is why it bothers me so much. Just like Facebook, it is a guilty pleasure that I love and hate at the same time. In Vang Vieng I walked past a beautiful temple, not bothering to look at it because I didn’t have my camera. Ridiculous really, but I think this signifies how things have become. Something beautiful, be it a night out, a mountainous backdrop or apparently a pre packed sandwich (why, people, why?), has become defined by the ability to encapsulate it forever and the ability to show it off to others.
The privacy thing really does drive me mad, especially when it involves others less fortunate than me. On the boat to Laos we went past some naked children playing in the river, and the sudden influx of tourists standing to get a snap of this ‘show’ was nearly enough to capsize us. Is it really right to have a photo of someone else’s child like that? Yes I appreciate the innocent wonderment, but I don’t think many westerners would be too pleased if the situation was reversed. And today, outside the guesthouse lobby where I was waiting was an old, worn, raggedy and dirty old woman who was slouched on the steps, clearly too tired and achy to move. Along came a tourist and shamelessly shoved his oversized Nikon lens (compensating for something, maybe?) in her direction, taking a couple of shots, checking them out, then doing it again. I mean, come on! To me that is too ridiculous to even go in to explaining why it is ridiculous. I know that preserving forever the joy and indeed the sadness of real life is priceless, but maybe we could leave photographing the unfortunate and needy to the professionals?
It also makes me quite uncomfortable when I catch someone in the act of trying to subtly get a ‘natural’ shot of something which happens to include me. Like a coffee shop in an airport at five in the morning. I’ve been here all night for goodness sake, give me a friggin’ break! Or the sights and sounds of the ‘crazy tubers’ on the river in Vang Vieng. Seriously, each and every tourist who went by on a speedboat (mainly Korean and Chinese, I have to add) had a camera surgically attached to their face. I felt like a sea lion at the zoo, trapped in my ring as people snapped me as if it was their right. I was actually quite a good sport as it turned out, suppressing my feelings of violation and instead waving at them like a happy lunatic. Again, it's the feeling of absolute shamelessness that  really gets me.
In conclusion to what turns out to have been a bit of a rant, I am challenging myself, and anyone else who is a little too much in love with their camera, to go out and see something without it. Just look, enjoy, and be happy to have whatever it is alive forever as a memory.    

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