Saturday, November 20, 2010

At lunch this week some people were discussing fancy cameras. Some other people were discussing their distaste for fancy cameras and, what's more, their distaste for cameras in general.

It pains me to say it, but there is an anti-photography brigade out there. I’ve crossed paths with a few of its members over the years. Now, I don’t expect everyone in the world to share my passion for photography any more than I expect everyone to love tennis or reading or Impressionist paintings. But what I don’t understand is why some people seem to be so resentful of photography in particular.

I’ve met some people who get very defensive when the topic comes up. “I don’t take photos,” they say proudly, in the same way that an animal-rights sort of vegetarian might say “I don’t eat meat.” As though it’s a moral principle that they pledge by. “I don’t even own a camera.”

It’s the same sort of reaction picky eaters such as myself occasionally get from dedicated food-lovers. You don’t drink wine? You’re eating that burger plain? You’re in Italy and having, horror of horrors, a margarita pizza? Personally, I wouldn’t want to miss out having a real European experience, but hey, it’s your loss.

That’s my favourite line. Because as a person who has lived in 5 countries and visited 14 others, been white-water rafting, skiing and tobogganing in the Alps, caving in Yorkshire and the Blue Mountains, to Christmas Eve mass at the Sacre-Coeur and to the top of Mt. Vesuvius, clearly I do not appreciate a good experience.

With the anti-photography brigade, their reasoning is invariably “I don’t take photos because I don’t want to miss out on the moment.” And I get that. I wouldn’t want to miss out on a moment either. But by trying to capture it on camera, I think I get more out of the moment than I would have otherwise.

I don’t enjoy photography only because I like composing pictures. I don’t enjoy it only because it lets me capture moments in time and thereby cater to my preservationist (i.e. packrat) tendencies. I also enjoy it because it makes me look at the world more closely. Maybe from an angle I wouldn’t have otherwise considered; maybe with an eye for detail that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. It makes me notice things that I might have missed.

Take my recent trip to Adelaide.

I would have breezed right past this shifty fellow, spotted in the Australian rainforest aviary, in search of more exciting creatures like hungry hungry hippo if I hadn't been in a snap photos of everything with eyes sort of mood. In retrospect, I'm glad I stopped. Check out his rockin' do and check out that cut-eye. Pure, unadulterated hatred.

Found these gloriously yellow balls of yellow glory on my way out of the Botanic Gardens. They're so yellow. And so puzzlingly round. And so full of tiny little mini-flowers that I wouldn't have noticed unless I'd gotten down on my knees with my macro lens.

And here, pigs in Rundle Mall. I just like this moment because if you switch the pig for a cocker spaniel and the guy for, say, my dad, you have a very typical scene in the Bishop household. Especially if you imagine the guy is eating a steak.

So proselytize away, anti-photography brigade. Enjoy your fine wines and experiences and let me enjoy my birds and plain burgers in peace!

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