In my earlier post Aggregating Steve, I explained that I was studying Steve Moraco in preparation to apply to be a friend. The “About Steve” page states:
There are three things I want to do most: Take pictures, learn cool things, and change the world for the better.
Take pictures? Does that resonate with me? There was a time when I was radically opposed to photography, at least as practiced by the public at large and in particular by tourists. I think this was when I was in high school, even before I delved into Zen. Somehow I had become convinced of the importance of being in the moment. I felt taking pictures was the opposite of living in the minute. It was trying to capture the minute. I had also read somewhere that certain peoples would not allow anyone to take their picture because they felt every picture evaporated a little bit of their soul. It seemed to me, considering most politicians, entertainers, and other people much in the news, that the preponderance of the evidence supported this belief.
Fast forward some years and I was married, then came the kids. I was taking pictures. I really tried to get into it. I did take lots of pictures. But it always made me feel uncomfortable at some existential level. I was always conflicted. I really did want to capture the cross country skiing treks with my little sons. I really gave it a try, buying the best gear I could afford. I mean I was really into it. I found this harness for my 35mm reflex camera, a Minolta I bought while serving in Viet Nam. (Couldn’t afford a Nikon) The harness allowed my to carry the camera mounted on my chest on top of my parka if we were out cross-country skiing or just over my t-shirt if we were on a summer hike. I tried. But I always felt the whole process was just too cumbersome, and that 35mm single reflex camera felt like lots of bulk and weight on top of the load of gear I was schleping into the wilderness. Hey, a little hard to travel light with kids in tow. And with all that, I didn’t even get a shot of the timber wolf that was stalking six-year-old Brenden on one cold outing in Estes Park. I was too busy chasing off the wolf!
Fast forward another few decades and here we are. The technology has changed everything, at least for me. If something interesting is happening, I grab my phone and snap, several times to make sure. Then in less than I minute I can text it to a friend. I feel now that photography enhances the life experience more than it interferes. Younger folks will read this and be a little puzzled. But there are others yet alive who remember running out of film just when you needed some. Then there was taking film in for developing, waiting to get it back, etc. None of that anymore. And when I look at Steve’s website and enjoy his fantastic photos, I have no doubt that I need to be photography’s good friend. Will photography and I become BFF’s? Why not?
As to whether or not photography evaporates soul, I am not sure. Perhaps that was just an artifact of analog technology, just one more problem banished by the digital age, or maybe not, I think as I watch the political debates.