Putting Down the Camera

Putting Down the Camera

Erin Burt


Sometimes I leave the camera at home. For you this decision may be a no-brainer, falling in line with the unplug fad, or just plain silly. If I have my camera with me, I’m not just thinking about this moment but also the  future moment when I or friends and family might enjoy this moment in retrospect—hence the want to take a photo. As grandparents live out of town, accessibility to photos is a big deal, so I try to take many. Sometimes, though, it is nice to just be in this moment. If your mode of photography is your smart phone, then taking it with you means you also add to the moment your email, your to-do list, your social media notifications. You potentially spread yourself thin in spite of being away unless you are one of the few who are really disciplined when it comes to unplugging.

In trying to capture everything, I experience almost nothing, or at least I experience much through a lens instead of first-hand. I find when I have the camera with me, I view so much of the outing through the potential of the lens—what is a great photo op? That is good, but the lighting is better over there. I see things in 4x4 or 4x6 instead of the entirety of what’s before me.

Speaking of which, having the camera with me I sometimes forget my place in the world. Etiquette goes to the wayside, especially when photographing my kids—those quick little buggers! I looked back at a photo from my first baby’s trip to a public water area. Now I see how me squatting and bending to get the perfect angle was surely in the way of numerous kids and parents while I spent a solid 10 minutes taking different photos and waiting for just the right moment of glee to capture. As for weddings and other professional events, amateur photography etiquette can literally get in the way of capturing the special moments as flashes and blocking can prohibit the professional from doing his or her job.

Do the photo-ops spring from the joy of taking photos or a sense of obligation that something needs to be captured? I don’t want my children thinking a life lived is a life posed. I saw some kiddos at the zoo who perhaps are really great listeners. Or maybe they are just really into photography. But I saw them, preschoolers, and they already knew to pose. This is convenient to be sure, as my children are usually all sorts of all over the place, but as they went from spot to spot only to pose and move to the next, I wondered to myself if they lived that day posed, not through experience. I’m all about getting that family picture sometimes, however elusive it feels while organizing our five bodies in front of the mountain or sign or sunset or animal or what-have-you. At the same time leaving the camera at home sometimes (or putting it away for most of the trip), even for special occasions, helps us live instead of pose.

Sometimes I look back and realize I missed the memory in spite of having visual proof. I see that my toddler was standing in front of a dinosaur at the special exhibit. I know his exact age as the photo is dated, and I see the black eye he got from falling off the chair two days prior. I recall he was happy, but what else? Already fading are details, that he was timid around the T-Rex but excited, so excited he jumped up and down and squealed at the opportunity to simply be eye-to-eye with the Apatosaurus so he could give it a hug. Then he told me he wanted me to have a baby dinosaur so he’d have a little dino-sister. All the more sweet because we soon found out I was actually pregnant with his little sister. But unless I write that memory down it will fade.

In 20 years my kids might just look back and say, ‘here is another posed photo in front of another special thing that really, really… isn’t all that special.’ It’s the details that made it special and the photo doesn’t necessarily record all that.

Lynette is a mom of three children from one year to age five. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Tags: infant, toddler, preschooler, expectations, photography, social media, trends, stress, self-care, parenting, mindfulness


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