Friday, July 24, 2009

Trigger Happy

This is how we were on our trip.
Wiley is taking a picture of us while we take a picture of him. And Mr. Photogenic knows how to take a picture without hiding his own charm and good looks. It's a wonder he avoided carpal tunnel syndrome, with all the button pushing he was doing. He took about 2,000 pictures on vacation. It would have been far more if he had not been limited by all the venues that prohibited photography. I shouldn't have been surprised. On Christmas Day he took over 800 pictures with his new camera.

Recording our lives is so easy now. Everyone has a digital camera or a cell phone camera and pocket size video recorders are common. Pictures are immediately posted and shared in so many domains and formats you can't list them all. On our trip we downloaded cameras to our laptop every night.

When I was twenty, I went to Hawaii with my family, accompanying my dad on a business trip. I took my Kodak pocket camera with my 24 exposure roll of 110 film and rationed my pictures over the week we were there. It took some deliberation to decide which scene was photo worthy. After returning from my trip I sent the film off for mail order processing, in order to minimize the significant expense of developing. I have some beautiful pictures of the Haleakala Crater on Maui that I still look at. The other pictures were special or unique in other ways. During my college years I only used a few rolls of film. Receiving prints back from the developer was an "event," allowing me to relive the moments photographed. Good times.

I have virtually no pictures from the first three years of marriage, living on one income while paying substantial law school costs. For my first birthday after the advent of dual gainful employment, I received a fantastic 35mm camera and began photography with abandonment. Shortly after that we inherited about $1,500 and used it to buy a video camera so that we could record family scenes with our new baby. I've taken and printed thousands and thousands of pictures and recorded hundreds of hours of video, upgrading cameras over the years. The closet under the stairs is completely full of photos and tapes. I am slowly adjusting now to images on screens rather than paper, and that's probably a good thing. I have no more closet space.

But, save special occasion like our recent London trip, I take far fewer pictures than in the past, even though technology makes it much easier. A few years ago I realized that sometimes you can be so busy recording life that you don't really get to enjoy it or appreciate it and have difficulty recalling it. Would I rather snap away during a kid's ball game, or would I rather watch it and watch the game and cheer and clap and focus on the effort and the expressions? What we see through a lens is not the same as what we see when we are involved. I would find myself trying to anticipate the next great photo shot rather than actually watching the game. Or I would be unnaturally quiet, not wanting to hear myself later on a video recording, rather than cheering and supporting.

In family gatherings I was often on the fringes, taking pictures rather than visiting and playing. Once I was so involved video-ing my children in a play pool in the backyard that it was probably a minute before I realized that my daughter was struggling and in real danger. I was so busy watching through the camera, making sure the picture was framed and centered, that I didn't notice my child was underwater.

So now my camera doesn't stay an arm's length away. Even on our vacation, I left it in the hotel room a couple of days. And our fourth child won't have as many pictures of himself doing cute or silly things. He won't have as many video recordings of his games as his siblings have. There should still be enough, I think, to vividly recall the past to mind, and that's what's important.

I'm not sure who will look at all those pictures and videos, anyway. We're too busy living, absorbing and being truly part of each others' lives to record and watch it all the time.

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