We went to a concert Thursday night, during which we dealt with a lot of little annoyances like people talking throughout the show and just generally not paying attention. At one point the man in front of me, who had been talking during the entire previous song, turned around and asked if the last song played had any words to it (it did) and whether or not I knew the song (of course). The odd thing about this question was that the band playing was performing an entire album from start to finish as a tribute to its thirteenth anniversary, which was why I foolishly thought everyone was there. Minutes later, during a little more upbeat song, the same man stopped talking, pulled out his iPhone and starting snapping pictures, as did a few other talkers in the audience.
The picture below is from the show. I snapped it, knowing it would turn out terribly, because my good friend who loves this particular band couldn’t be there and I wanted to let him know we missed him.
You can take a much better picture with a good phone nowadays, but does it matter?
For that man in front of me and the other talkers, it seemed to me they were there just to be there. Not to hear live music. Not to dance. Not to go out and experience something. But just to check another box off of some list of things Portlanders should do. What are the chances that a couple months from now, he’ll even know what band is in the picture?
Even this girl who was dancing throughout most of the show stopped to take a photo. She was having a great time, but stopped to try to capture the moment on her phone. I look back at the pictures I’ve tried to take with my phone, or even my camera, and without the skill and equipment necessary to adequately capture the image, it doesn’t do much to enhance my memory. Even when I’ve had the chance to buy a copy of a video of a live show I’ve been to, the video doesn’t match up to the experience I have in my head.
Are we trying too hard to collect memories rather than just making them?
I’m as guilty as the next person of taking time away from my experience to snap a picture of a beautiful sunset or piece of art, trying to capture a special moment. It seems like a good idea because we want to have something to reflect back on that brings us back to that place where we were so happy. As soon-to-be world travelers, I think this poses an important question. Are we doing this simply to check places to see off of a list? To be able to say we’ve been to all these important places? To have something to write about in a blog? I hope not. But we run the risk of this happening when we lose sight of the real reason we’re traveling. Brian over at Wandering Sasquatch wrote a great post about learning a lesson about this same thing while watching a sunrise in Nepal.
So, photography is useless? Certainly not. It serves a purpose – obviously as an art form, but also as a way of reminding us of a moment.
But what’s that reminder without the experience in the first place?