Join 3,516 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


I have the photo, but I don't remember being there...
May 31, 2014 4:20 AM   Subscribe

Maybe it's time to put down that camera/smart phone. A short NPR article (including a link to the audio, an interview with Maryanne Garry, a psychology professor at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand) discussing why it's important to be thoughtful about the amount of time you spend experiencing life through a viewfinder and how the digital age has impacted on our parental role as archivist of our own and our children's lives.
posted by HuronBob (46 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I find this article, like many articles around parenting, somewhat point-missy in that it presupposes some kind of Edenic pre-modern parenting state where parents where 100% devoted, in the moment, put their child's needs above all else etc, rather than reflecting that new tools may change things, but it can sometimes be a case of same shit, different day.

Take a trip back in time to that park and you would probably find parents were not in the moment because they weren't there at all. If they were there, they were probably talking to other parents, quite possibly drinking or drunk, smoking up a storm and pausing long enough only to wack the noisiest kid.

The article further supposes there's a dearth of moments with children that are not mediated with a camera, which is just preposterous. As the father of a .5 and 2.5 year old, I can tell you my moments with a camera between me and my kid wouldn't even make up .1% of the daily time I spend with them. Indeed, anyone who has faced the prospect of a full day's uninteruppted activity with a toddler would tell you that, rewarding as it can be, it seems like a small eternity unfolds. As those days stretch into months and years, the idea it would even be possible see most of it through a lens is ridiculous.

A study involving a handful of university students at a gallery is hardly analogous to parenting - and I can tell you sleep deprivation has wreaked more havoc on my once-majestic memory than a camera.

I dunno, I'm a keen hobbyisty photographer and if anything I feel like I don't take enough photos of my kids. They are tricky subjects and it's easier just to play with them.

The marinade of parental guilt is strongly flavoured, but its omnipotence is wearying.
posted by smoke at 4:40 AM on May 31 [87 favorites]


I feel like digital paraphernalia gets blamed a lot for missing out on "moments" in our lives, but in my opinion it is mostly bullshit. Like were people just randomly chatting up strangers in the subway pre-smartphone era? Not in the timeline I remember. Were parents suddenly more involved in their children's lives? I don't think so. It is like we are remembering some wonderful past that never actually existed.

Now, should we get our noses off our screens and be more active in the lives of our loved ones? Absolutely, but let's not pretend that this is a recent problem. People have been ignoring important things in their lives forever.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:40 AM on May 31 [22 favorites]


Damn you, smoke!
posted by Literaryhero at 4:40 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


This goes completely counter to my own experience. I remember the days I took photos of things, and have almost zero recall of everything else from 1997 to present. Photographs serve as a powerful cue to leverage against, and recall other non-photographed details.


Smoke: As far as the kids go... take a hundred pictures, and throw 98 of them away... the 2 left will be amazing!
posted by MikeWarot at 4:43 AM on May 31 [13 favorites]


Wow, I guess I missed the part where she says everything was perfect in the past and that we should take a hammer to our image making equipment. I really need to read these more carefully before I make post.

I guess the take-away for me was the last couple of paragraphs of the article:

"But Henkel doesn't want people to stop taking photos. They're still valuable tools that can provide "rich retrieval clues" later on, she says. Instead, she'd like us to be more mindful when taking pictures in the first place.

"I don't know that the new technology is serving the functions of preserving memories quite as well, unless you take the extra step and actually look at the photos, and revive those memories from them."

posted by HuronBob at 4:49 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


But there's a really clear contradiction here, HuronBob, one the one hand we get: "I think that the problem is that people are giving away being in the moment," she says." - because they are taking photos.

but shortly after, we get: "parents are giving away some of their role as the archivist of the child's memory," - because, weirdly, they are taking photos. But not in the right way.

Both examples seem to be based on the most extreme positions available at the ends of a very very broad spectrum indeed - positions that the article has literally no evidence any parents hold at all.

And the solution? Some nebulous position in the middle of the (imho imaginary) spectrum that no one can actually define, except the "Experts" and the "Good/Mindful Parents" - archetypes that are depressingly recognisable to anyone forced to enter the shadowy underworld of modern parenting fables.

I think of this kind of thing as the Goldilocks parenting paradox - because it's structured like a fairy tale with Good and Bad parents, and relies on a recommendation of ambiguous parenting that is very hard to articulate beyond self-help generalities, neither too hard nor too soft, but "just right".
posted by smoke at 4:59 AM on May 31 [14 favorites]


I'm stealing the Goldilocks Paradox, if you don't mind. That's a really great way of describing this BS.
posted by corb at 5:04 AM on May 31 [5 favorites]


Now, should we get our noses off our screens and be more active in the lives of our loved ones? Absolutely, but let's not pretend that this is a recent problem. People have been ignoring important things in their lives forever.

I need to get my nose out of my phone because I'm missing the unimportant things.
posted by dogwalker at 5:19 AM on May 31


Also, and sorry to keep jumping back in, I'll shut up after this I promise - but my childhood was one of crappy film cameras and bulb flashes - those photos weren't "curated" by choice; film was expensive, extremely limited in conditions of use, unable to be redone or retaken, and fragile as both celluloid and print. The result was a small number of carefully staged photos, nearly all taken in daylight or directly in front of the brightest flash, with either people out of focus or a depth of field that would give the Marianas Trench a run for its money, drained of spontaneity - unless half the family's eyes closed counts - and burdened by rigid composition (no crops), a dynamic range thin as cigarette paper, and inflexible colours that were generally the warm reds of Kodak, the blue-greens of velvia, or the blurred wash out of crappy no name film.

The ease of modern digital photography coupled with internet is a frigging straight up wonder, in my opinion.
posted by smoke at 5:20 AM on May 31 [10 favorites]


Relevant XKCD.

Which is to say, if you feel like you're doing it too much, you probably should do it less, but you should not extrapolate this to how much other people are or should be taking pictures.
posted by Sequence at 5:29 AM on May 31 [12 favorites]


And a viewfinder is . . . ?

#getoffmylawn
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:34 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


ambiguous parenting that is very hard to articulate beyond self-help generalities

Be mindful of the moment! Be an archivist! Be present! Be your child's logistics officer!

If the current intensive parenting paradigm were a person, I'd be DTMFA.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:35 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


I very much remember everything around my photos taken with a film camera, because it was a more involved process - exposures were limited, and you had to make them count. There was a certain mindfulness necessary: Dang, is this a 24 or 36 roll? did I load it carefully enough to get 2 extra shots at the end? or just one? Did I remember to change the ISO from 100 to 400? crap, this thing weighs a ton, my neck is killing me... Stand still you little brats, you're gonna make me waste this shot, do you know how much it costs to get these developed? Stop poking your brother! Okay, say cheese... were you sticking out your tongue!? You know what? just forget it, get out of here. Go outside. Out. Side. Don't get anything on those pants, we have to leave for your cousin's wedding in 10 minutes.

Ah yes, the good old days.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:35 AM on May 31 [13 favorites]


My father was heavily obsessed with photography in the mid Sixties. His hobbies tend not to last so much as become intense interests for a period of time, say 3 to 5 years. He set up a darkroom with all the equipment and would do his own developing. All through he took zillions of photographs as he taught himself the process, with the results ranging from properly developed black and white photographs to strangely spotted sepia toned "we think there's a human figure in that fog" snapshots.

Guess which firstborn babe was the primary object of practice during that era?
posted by infini at 6:01 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I don't see this as about pre v post camera ubiquity, but those of us that don't bother taking pics of anything v those that do.

And I'm pleased to see my rationalization now has science behind it.
posted by jpe at 6:07 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


For a couple of years I used to do some movement photography and video at protests and events - partly for documentary purposes, partly for legal (ie, documenting interactions with cops). I wasn't especially good at it and didn't have a fast enough camera, so eventually I stopped. Prior to that, I used to take photos on my own at big events* with a faster, cheaper film camera**.

My experiences do match the article, in that I remember far, far less of the events where I was on call than I do of events where I was just taking a picture here and there. That was one subsidiary reason I stopped doing the serious photography - I was always so focused on lining up the shot, being in the right place at the right time, keeping my eye out for interesting/revealing/"iconic" things to photograph, being ready to document anything "important" that happened....that I was much less present in the actual event. And I missed anything that wasn't camera-worthy, because I wasn't listening or looking for anything that didn't make a good photo.

It had its fun side, too - I met a lot of people, had an excuse for not listening to boring speakers and got to produce some pretty rinky-dink but satisfying photojournalism and video. But for me at least, the constant presence of the camera wasn't super great for being in the moment.




*There was a developer who "lost" my roll of photos of cops beating up my friend. That's one big plus for digital.
**All my digital cameras have always taken a few extra seconds to actually take the picture, which is crap for capturing movement. My old cheapo film camera was way better.
posted by Frowner at 7:05 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Before we had the cell phone camera, we had the "dad with camera" trope. My ex was like that. I would pack up the kids and we would all go apple picking, to the beach, hiking, kayaking, whatever, and he would experience much of the day through his camera lens.

It was his way of interacting with the family. What always felt problematic to me and the kids was that he chose to experience our lives as a bystander.

We were making sandcastles; dad took pictures.
We were picking apples; dad posed the kids and took pictures.
We were hiking up a mountain; dad kept running ahead of us trying to get perfect shots.

He was never with the family.

So my memory of our years together was I had all this awesome fun with the kids and their dad stood to the side, getting it all on film. This made me sad back in the day and I'm sorry that he choose to watch us live instead of being part of the family.

Now, sure, I see caregivers taking pictures but I don't see anything even close to parent-shaming.

Save the parent-shaming for parents who are out with their kids and are texting, emailing, playing Words with Friends and in tons of other ways completely ignoring their children.

Those parents? Those parents need to put their damned phones down.
posted by kinetic at 7:18 AM on May 31 [7 favorites]


Now when I look through our family albumssssss I see documentary evidence from birth to menopause, important days, friends, family whatever. Even now, when someone visits them in Singapore, I'll be sure to get an email of mom with guests, capturing the event, the moment. He was there, he was always there, and he always will be.
posted by infini at 7:32 AM on May 31


As a former photojournalist I've experienced this. There is a phenomena that happens to most photojournalists while shooting where you have a very real feeling of there being a barrier between you and the subject due to the camera being attached to your face. I know war photographers that have experienced some really awful things and in the moment experienced lost time where they've had the feeling of not being present but have the images to prove they were there. At one point in my career working for newspapers I was a regular on the sidelines of many professional and collegiate "big games" and I don't remember a single one of them. Non-photographer friends would always tell me how lucky I was to be able to attend all of these games on the side lines and I'd respond that I'd be a lot happier in the stands with a beer and a hot dog.

I've had some very tense conversations with family due to their inability to understand why I'm not running around like an idiot during my daughter's birthday party or school events trying to vacuum up all the little moments of her life. Because of my profession I know that just because you're at an event with a camera doesn't prove that you were actually there and present experiencing the event. I've often said to one particular pain-in-the-ass family member that it's my day off and if they want to document the moment go right ahead.
posted by photoslob at 7:55 AM on May 31 [10 favorites]


I'm surprised no one else has mentioned the video camera era. I'm not that annoyed by having to pose or just smile for a few snapshots. But I hated having a running camera going while just being told to act natural or worse, having to recreate an actual moment that happened just moments before that the camera had somehow missed. So glad that fad has passed.
posted by marsha56 at 8:06 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


I grew up before most of this technological distraction and I still didn't fully realize I had parents until I was about 16 or so. There were just these adults in the house who said "Go out and play" or "If you want to fight go outside"
posted by srboisvert at 8:52 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


To me, there are two primary ways of experiencing life (wow, I'm wrong already!). One, direct sensory experience; two,through a viewfinder. (Hang on, I'll waffle later.)

Walking around with a camera, looking for good shots, is an extraordinary way of aestheticizing the visual world. I love doing that now and then. Once I was walking through a New Orleans cemetery without a camera, and thinking, damn, that there would be a hell of a shot…but then New Orleans cemeteries have been photographed to death, and I remember them in great detail - as I would have with a camera as well, I'm sure. That study mentioned in NPR is a little sketchy, I think.

This thread is mostly about family photos, and I have the usual memories of Dad with Camera, and have digitized almost all of the 50's/60's/70's film, from 16mm to 8mm to Super 8mm. Lots of virtually anonymous skiers and kids holding up Easter egg baskets to the camera. Still, lots of fun.

I still have plenty of photos and videos of my now adult child, but like the first post said, about .1% of my parenting time was spent in media documentation, time well-spent.

Keeping photos in photo books (rollin' analog here, peeps) is a great idea. Dumping photos into the cloud: not so much. Why take them? Oh, Facebook: this brings up another tangent.)

George Clooney said How can people say they met George Clooney if all they are doing is taking cell phone photos? I mean, this is obviously an old guy talking, but I'm not the only one. All those cell phones at concerts? Seriously? Just enjoy the show! Those crappy mini-videos are a waste of time. Boy, I could go on and on. This thread will, I'm sure.
posted by kozad at 9:03 AM on May 31


My dad was a camera nut. I spent most of my young life hiding from the camera, I hated having my picture taken. When I grew old enough, I always volunteered to take the family photos, so I wouldn't be in them. That was probably the origin of what would eventually become my BFA in Photography.

Now I have the entire collection of family photo albums from my Mom's estate. I'm supposed to divide them up fairly but it is too daunting a task. I am next to oldest, so I appear in more photos than almost anyone else. I found one photo I did not know about. It is my dad holding me at about age 1 week. That was when I finally became aware of the reason I didn't want to go through all these photos and split them up. It's a trip through my childhood, which was sufficiently traumatic that I don't want to see it again in such detail. Seeing the photos was like experiencing it again.

But more to the point.. I heard this NPR story on the radio, there was more than one show with Maryanne Garry, it was a short series, I'll have to look up the other shows. But as a photographer, she did raise some points that resonated with me. When I did photojournalism, it was hard to keep track of the event when you're looking through the viewfinder. You can either take photos, or experience the event, not both. But that was in the days when the technology was much cruder, film and developing was expensive, so you couldn't just shoot endlessly.

When I got to art school, most of the serious photographers bought film in 100 foot rolls and used bulk loading to make their own cassettes. With self-developing, it was cheap enough to shoot about all the pics you wanted. But still, in art school, there were generally two types of photographers. There were the guys that just shot constantly, frame after frame, cranking out dozens of proof sheets a week. Then there were the guys like me, who shot extremely sparingly, waiting for the one crucial moment to trip the shutter. The mass shooters would capture everything, in the hopes that one shot would turn out well. Their job was merely selecting the best shot. But I spent a lot of time with sheet film cameras like the Graflex Speed Grafic. It was a view camera, and I'd usually go out with like 4 sheets of film. The tilt and shift mechanisms allowed very complex tuning of a photo. I could work for half an hour or more just to get one shot.

So my approach was much more involved, especially when I bought a Hasselblad and shot mostly on color transparency film. 12 shots on a roll and everything about it was expensive. Every damn shot better be a great one. That is really when I learned to make pictures. It required me to really become mindful of the scene, while keeping mindful of the technology that I'd use to capture it according to the Zone System.

That's really what the NPR essay was about. Making a photo is different than taking a photo. When you make a photo, you are being very conscious about the experience you are making into an image. You aren't just passively recording the events. I recently had a very intense experience with this.

I don't really have a decent camera, which drives me crazy. I'm the kind of guy who could really use a high rez camera, I fantasize about the Hasselblad H5D-60 because I have projects that really deserve to be produced as 60 megapixel images. But that is a pipe dream. I can't afford a $40,000 camera. All I have is an iPhone.

But the other day, I did an experiment. Every day I go out my back porch and look at the trees across the parking lot. It is spring and the flowering pear trees burst into bloom for a few days. Most years, the blooms are ruined by a storm, knocking them all off so I can't enjoy them for more than a day. But this year I saw them, I have a new iPhone 5 and I thought, hey I should try panoramic mode. The regular photos aren't high rez enough to do anything with, but pano images are really high rez. And you don't have to take horizontal panos, you can do verticals or even angles if you are really really careful. You can take advantage of the quirks of the pano process to get unusual distortions of perspective and I know all about that because one of my professors back in art school was famous for shots he took with antique pano cameras.

So I went out and stood under the branches of the tree and shot some panos. It required me to move very slowly, watching the camera to keep the alignment while moving the camera in an arc. They turned out wonderfully, but after postprocessing, I didn't like them as much because the sun was behind the trees. Most of the white blossoms were muddy, only a few were bright white. I'll not get into the obsessive histogram work that any old-school photog works with, but yeah, it was technically bad. But the images were still amazing. I'll show you one (low rez, since I'm going to work with these commercially). I was surprised how well this tiny little sensor worked when pointed straight into the sun. But what makes this photo for me, is the crooked branch in the upper left, that is an artifact of the pano. It's actually straight, but the crooked line somehow makes the photo. And OMG this turned out at almost 9 megapixels, I can print this 20 inches wide at very high quality.

The next day, I went out and looked at the trees as usual, but I noticed, hey, the sun is at the opposite angle, the lighting is perfect. I ran out and took a few more shots. I haven't finished postprocessing them, and they're pretty good. Technically, they're better in every regard, but I just do not like them as much as the pics from the first shoot. I thought about this a lot, and I figure it's because I enjoyed discovering this scene and shooting it the first time, more than the second session where I was just trying to improve on the first. The first time, I was truly mindful of the scene. The second time, I was thinking about the photos, I had already experienced the scene before.

Now the pear blossoms are gone. I watched them fall slowly, drifting to the ground. The Japanese call it "the moment after glory," it is supposedly the moment of peak aesthetic enjoyment, when we see the petals fall and get a sense of the fleeting nature of life. But when I see the trees, I still think of the time a few weeks ago when I stood underneath the flowering branches and looked very intensely, and experienced it very intensely.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:23 AM on May 31 [18 favorites]


Ah, intensive parenting ideology: I must be an "archivist of my child's memory," and need to do that without too many photo cues.

Sorry, not only am I not a trained archivist, but my child's first years were a blur of sleep deprivation, denying me the privilege of memory consolidation enjoyed by the well-rested. When I look at photos of my kid as a toddler and have no memory at all of her contemplatively eating clover flowers, it's not because the camera was a barrier to experience.

Raising a kid shouldn't be framed as some sacred duty of memorization, with a test to follow.
posted by DrMew at 9:34 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Ugh, I agree with the basic premise of this article but could they be a bit less sloppy?

"I remember going to the park at one point, and looking around ... and seeing that everyone was on their phones ... not taking photographs, but just — they had a device in their hands," she recalls.

Those parents at the park taking all those photos are actually paying less attention to the moment, she says, because they're focused on the act of taking the photo.


No, you just told us they weren't taking photos. They were dicking around on their phones and not participating with the people around them. That's a completely different problem and, as far as I'm concerned, a worse one.
posted by sfkiddo at 9:38 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


I didn't read through all of the comments; sorry if this point is already on the table, but:

I've heard people say to not "live behind the viewfinder" or whatever, and I think that's true in the following sense: when I went on vacation after I got my digital SLR (so the first time I could basically take unlimited pix), it really kind of ruined the trip in that I really was always ("always") taking pictures. It was, in a sense, a little like walking through the Acropolis while playing on a frigging Gameboy or something, in retrospect.

It doesn't strike me as true that you need to be "mindful" of the pix you take. Not at all. I just think you have to make sure not to take too many. Take them (what?) unmindfully if you want. Just make sure you aren't seeing every damn thing through the viewfinder. Might as well stay home and look at crap on the interwebs if you do that.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 9:44 AM on May 31


Charlie don't surf, great post. Thanks.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 9:45 AM on May 31


Smoke nailed it.
posted by caddis at 10:55 AM on May 31


I have a terrible memory. I also travel quite a bit, eat at a lot of nice restaurants and visit a lot of art galleries. But a while back, I made the conscious decision to stop taking photos of art or food. Yes, I won't remember most of it, but I just made peace with the fact that these would be fleeting experiences, enjoyed in the moment, but only remembered as a blur of enjoyment. I think digital cameras and social media have encouraged the idea that we need to document and preserve every thing and every moment. And maybe some people enjoy life more that way, if so, go ahead and Instagram every plate in that 10-course degustation (though I'll probably unfollow you). But for me, I have found that it hasn't lessened my enjoyment of any of those things, and, to be honest, I never looked at any of those photos again anyway.

Thanks to the internet, I actually find now that I just take less photos when traveling in general. When I was younger, I'd return home, and show my family members my photos one by one, but that seems to have died off as a tradition. By the time I return home, they've already seen shots I took online. And I feel less compelled to take shots of landmarks and monuments anyway -- who wants to see my shitty photo of the Eiffel Tower on Facebook, when a Google image search will bring up thousands of better ones? Now I find I just take and post shots of things that are unusual or interesting or funny. I actually like it better this way.
posted by retrograde at 11:18 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


I remember being there because I have the photo.
posted by maryr at 11:33 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


(I went on a cross country road trip a few years ago and there are places I literally forgot we visited, things I forgot we saw and wondered at, until they come up on my laptop's screensaver.)
posted by maryr at 11:39 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Susan Sontag predicted all of this in her collection of essays, On Photography. Few listened.
posted by Halogenhat at 12:12 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


But for me at least, the constant presence of the camera wasn't super great for being in the moment.

If you're talking about actual documentary photography, this is generally a plus: you don't want to be in the moment, you want to be slightly outside it, because your role is typically that of an observer, to match what the eventual viewer of the photograph will be when they're viewing it.

To be part of the moment while taking a photograph, given that the photograph generally doesn't communicate that involvement well, and viewers typically assume that the photo is representative of an objective viewpoint, can start to tread into dishonesty or propaganda, unless it's done intentionally/consciously and with the aim of playing with or inverting or otherwise trading on that assumption.

Which is as much the case with family photos as it is with the ones in the newspaper. How often do we look at a "family photo" and have to remind ourselves that there's nearly always a missing person -- the one who's taking the picture? There are years worth of vacation photos taken by my parents that lack my mother, because she was always the one taking the pictures. But if someone without any knowledge of our family looked at the photos, they might not realize that, because the assumption when people view photos is nearly always one of omniscience and objectivity, that what's in the photo is whatever there was to see.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:16 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I'm very interested to know if a wearable camera, like the Narrative Clip (formerly known as Memoto (previously)) or the Autographer, could allow one to be fully in the moment while still capturing the memory photographically.
posted by Snerd at 12:31 PM on May 31


Susan Sontag predicted all of this in her collection of essays, On Photography. Few listened.

That was actually one of my textbooks back in art school. It had just been published. This was the material any photographer had to know.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:32 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


So much of the comments here are very anecdoatl and dismiss the past as not much better. How much time, then, do you imagine youngsters spend on FaceBook, Twitter, etc? a lot. Good or bad? you decide.
I have this sad memory of a trip to DC a year ago. Took cruise boat ride on Potomac..there a father and his wife very excited by everything they saw while their small girl NOT ONCE for the entire trip looked away from her cell phone..She did not even take pictures. Too busy.
posted by Postroad at 12:40 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


At one point in my career working for newspapers I was a regular on the sidelines of many professional and collegiate "big games" and I don't remember a single one of them.

That's a function of doing work for which you are paid. When I was shooting paying gigs, I was focused on the work in a way that precluded a relaxed 'being in the moment, experiencing and remembering'. You're too busy lining up the shot, taking care of all the technical stuff, because this is work, it cannot fail. Totally different stuff from casual photography on your own time.

It also makes a difference if you take a photo as a result of of an experience, or with a prior decision to document an event. If you simply see something and it strikes you for whatever reason, you can snap a photo and remember it all, because the natural experience came first and the documenting later, whereas if you start out saying to yourself that you're going to document something, then you are focusing on the process and experience in a different way, which may interfere with your casual ordinary experience of it.
posted by VikingSword at 12:50 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Took cruise boat ride on Potomac..there a father and his wife very excited by everything they saw while their small girl NOT ONCE for the entire trip looked away from her cell phone.

I've been on one of those cruises on the Potomac. I enjoyed it as an adult but I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it much as a kid either. Letting the kid have her cellphone might have been the better alternative to what I probably would have done at the same age, had my parents dragged me to the same thing, which would have been to drive them nuts in punishment for boring me.

Someone recently made the comparison at an outdoor barbecue that an iPhone is to a child what a Kong toy full of peanut butter is to a puppy: it's something you give to them to keep them busy so they don't think too hard about how to ruin your life.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:57 PM on May 31 [10 favorites]


My strategy is to forget about taking photos or video for a while, then realize that 6 months of growing has gone by.
Seriously, how is she 5 already!?!?

Then I go on a 2 or 3 day bender of obsessive picture taking and recording every possible interaction on the camcorder.
Then I, you know, forget about it for a while and the cycle repeats itself.

I can't decide if this makes me neglectful or zen.
posted by madajb at 3:06 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Relevant XKCD.

This is about right. I don't much care how others enjoy moments.

The times that I tend to lean towards the sentiments expressed in the article, however, is when those who really enjoy taking pictures want me to be in quite a number of them, when I typically enjoy being in the moment over taking pictures for future memories. Being forced to participate too much in the picture taking process devalues memories for me.

Or, if kids are constantly being pulled out of their moments because mom and dad want a picture just right, it can sometimes be disruptive. Additionally, if it includes regularly rounding up scores of people to participate (including our kids, who are simply trying to just have a fun time), and they are half-trying, half goofing off and getting antsy and starting to cry and complaining because they really just want to play and STILL the person with the camera wants them to fake some sort of a smile ALL AT EXACTLY THE SAME TIME, I find that I would (sometimes) be a-okay if every camera in the world would spontaneously combust and we never had another picture ever again.

Boy, that escalated quickly.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:50 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


This post just made me add a reminder to my calendar, recurring every sunday, to take a picture of my daughter (3 weeks old currently) next to a stuffed tiger for scale.

Our neighbours have two tiny children, that we recently saw after the birth of our own tiny child and those children now look enormous in comparison. So I decided that we needed a running scale comparison, because otherwise we'd never remember how tiny the girl actually was when she was tiny.

Then I felt bad that that was my reaction, then I read the article and stopped feeling bad, because this woman saying these things takes TENS OF THOUSANDS of pictures of her children. I was only planning one a week (plus, others as the moment arises of course, but they are not so scheduled)

Does that make sense? I'm really tired. Someone take a picture of me being tired.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:06 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I wonder how practiced the students were at taking pictures of objects with the equipment (reading the article I'm not sure if the students supplied their own cameras/phones). I can definitely understand where using unfamiliar equipment or having to compose unfamiliar shots, or needing the shot to be perfect either because of perfectionism or professionalism would force one's attention to be divided to subsumed by the process.

Even though I've taken upwards of 100,000 images I've only recently got into shooting models. And even though it all been at the TFP/fooling around level at the end of an hour or two of shooting I'm completely frazzled. Whereas I can photodocument a hike in the woods with my SLR and barely even have to think about it; it is about as attention consuming as leisurely riding a bike. But then in those cases I'm not trying to make perfect art I'm just documenting what I encounter. Still if I set out to take a long exposure night shot of a field lit by moonlight I find it a relaxing almost meditative experience. And most times I'll get the results I want because I've got lots of practice in that sort of thing.

MikeWarot: "This goes completely counter to my own experience. I remember the days I took photos of things, and have almost zero recall of everything else from 1997 to present. Photographs serve as a powerful cue to leverage against, and recall other non-photographed details."

This is so much me. I have a really shitty memory most times but a single photo of an event that I don't remember taking can lead to a cascading avalanche of memories of the event.

Also where large groups are involved my camera allows me to deal with my social anxiety in a socially acceptable way. With my SLR if I'm off at the edge of the crowd holding it in plain view people assuming I'm doing picture taking things (and even avoid approaching so as not "ruin the shot") whereas a lone person standing off from a crowd invites an endless stream of people attempting to engage with me when really all I want is a chance to decompress a bit.

In that way it's a bit like fishing. Sit on a public dock for a couple hours contemplating the universe and people think you are weird and wasting the day. Hold a stick with a string and hook attached and suddenly you are engaged in the socially acceptable "sport" of fishing even if you sit there all day without catching a thing.
posted by Mitheral at 12:28 AM on June 1


Really, its just another way to put more pressure on us dads; like there's not enough already. Now one of our last toys - the camera - is also pronounced BAD and has to go. We have to be PERFECT dads, lovers, workers, feminists and so on ALL THE TIME and take care of our body, health, family pets, house and garden while doing that. The pressure! I want to take up drinking! But offcourse thats not allowed also. As is smoking.

Ok, im exaggerating a bit. But really, give the guys (mostly?) a break. Everyone needs a hobby. You cant play with the kids ALL the time. How about the man and woman that WORK all the time, or are busy with other hobbies? Fishing? Sports? Cars?
That's why all kids hate fish, sports and cars. Dad was allways busy with that and had no time for them. How about woman that are behind the mirror ALL the time, japping with the neighbours in real-life OR on the phone, reading pulp booklets, tinkering with wool, 3D card making and other stuff? STOP IT NOW and play with your kids!

Really if dad was there with the camera, he was AT LEAST there. Mum could have talked to him about putting the camera down once in a while. But at least he was not out drinking in a bar, away on a trip with friends, working in Asia, fighting in a war, out preaching the word and whatever else. Kids and partners will hate everything you do, if it takes away the bond between you and them. its not just the camera. Dont overdo anything. On the other hand, allow someone to have a hobby. does it REALLY need to have a purpose? Its a way to get out of the busy all day life, the pressure of today for being spouce, dad, worker and more... Relax while concentrating on the hobby, and surely forgetting about the world around you, losing time, narrowing the world to that one spot, place, camera, viewfinder...
All those 3D cards that women are tinkering with, knitting, embroidering, glass fusing, painting and whatever. Does it go in an album? Is it watched for ages to come?

Indeed, there will be no fairytale happening when all cameras are put down. I remember a past when mum and dad had LOTS of children and where busy with work, the household, diaper washing (by hand) and no time or (lots of) interest in the kids. Dont whine, sit straight, dont ruin your clothes, clean your room, stay out of trouble, dont talk when adults are speaking, and dont bother me! Break the rules and get a whack around the head. Nowadays parents have the time and possibilities to do stuff with kids, while taking a few pics. Wich one is better?

Obviously looking through a camera lens ALL the time is no good for family experiences and other experiences. Neither is japping on the phone with friends ALL THE TIME, fishing and all that. I dont have a smart phone, because i really dont like them and they dont seem so smart. Just like social internet networks dont seem so social. People watching their phones all the time is much more annoying than someone taking some shots of nice activities. But indeed, its good to not forget to be part of the moment and take part in it. Its easy to do both, if you want. While learning your kids that the world is out there and not inside their phone. At least when they take pictures, they learn to notice the beauties and good stuff the world has to offer.

Taking millions of picturex is useless. Shoot a few; throw out most. Keep the best few ones. Turn them into photo books each year, for future remembrance and enjoyment. Master photography and your pictures will make kids enthousiastic about photography and not hate it. Master any other hobby and your kids will love it.

Just dont forget they are there.

:-)
posted by skalie at 12:52 AM on June 1


I have this sad memory of a trip to DC a year ago. Took cruise boat ride on Potomac..there a father and his wife very excited by everything they saw while their small girl NOT ONCE for the entire trip looked away from her cell phone..She did not even take pictures. Too busy

Maybe she was reading a fascinating novel on a Kindle app. Maybe she was writing poetry. Maybe she has anxiety about being on the water and was playing Dragon Box to distract herself. Maybe you shouldn't get sad and judgmental about something you know so little about.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:58 AM on June 1 [3 favorites]


Crap article about "things aren't as good as they were in the good old days" crap philosophy is crap.

An earlier version of this article was printed on clay tablets in the time of Akhenaton.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:00 PM on June 2


Postroad : "I have this sad memory of a trip to DC a year ago. Took cruise boat ride on Potomac..there a father and his wife very excited by everything they saw while their small girl NOT ONCE for the entire trip looked away from her cell phone..She did not even take pictures. Too busy."

Yeah, and if you'd seen six-year-old me and my parents on a similar boat back in 1976, I probably would've had my nose stuck in a book and been similarly ignoring the surroundings. Kids don't always love the experiences their parents drag them along on.

Like some of the earlier commenters, I too have a wonky memory (depression does bad things to memory, especially autobiographical memory) so having a photo of something can, as others have mentioned, trigger memories for me that I might have no way to access otherwise.
posted by Lexica at 7:08 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


« Older How well can you spell? is a spelling challenge f...  |  "It’s most logical to conceive... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments