Making Eye Contact and Being There

I recently went to my nephew’s baptism, and when I looked back at the video I had taken at my sister’s request, I felt a wave – albeit a small one – of shame wash over me.  The pastor’s face reflected an obvious annoyance that affected even this extremely lapsed Lutheran.  Later that week, capturing an image of my son kicking a goal into a net and receiving a medal meant I didn’t actually see the goal in person; I saw a digitized version of it in the camera’s screen.  It’s not nearly as high-definition as the first person experience I could have had.  The recent concert put on by my children’s preschool was preceded by the director’s request to take photographs only before and after the performance; only a few parents followed directions (I taped it from my lap, employing the highly developed note-passing skills I learned in seventh grade.).  And this week parents all over our area will be photographing and videotaping their children walking down aisles and picking up diplomas, and they’ll see it all through the miniature lo-res screen of their smartphones or cameras.

I understand the motivation; I participate in the act.  Preserving the

from atmtx's photoblog: mostlyfotos

special moments in our lives is a way of documenting and remembering.  Digital photography and huge storage capabilities have allowed us to file away every moment of our lives for rainy day viewing.  But just as we should not necessarily DO everything we CAN do, perhaps the ability to document a moment and save it for later has watered down our real life experiences to the point where we have forgotten why we wanted to document them in the first place.  We are sacrificing significant moments to show how special they are.  And those moments are becoming a little less sacred the more we focus on capturing them.

I also think the discomfort I felt while holding my camera over the heads of those with a better view of my nephew’s baptized head comes from the realization that my focus on technology during a baptism is not too far removed from talking on a phone or texting while driving – one of my pet peeves and something that has caused more than a few close calls in my life.  It all comes down to paying attention to where you are now and the people sharing that space with you.

from ap.'s flickr

The annoyed pastor, the proud face of my son making a goal, the nervous face of my child reciting a line during a preschool show, and the graduate searching for her mother’s face as she accepts her diploma are all met with the same thing:  a set of eyes turned towards a screen and not at them, not the occasion.  Just as it is disconcerting to have a video-chat with someone whose eyes are turned down looking at the you on the screen instead of into the little green light on the webcam, it’s a depressing statement about how we are choosing to experience our lives when we smile and wave at the pixels on a screen instead of our present-right-now-in-front-of-us loved ones.  The difference is that a video-chat is keeping far away people closer, while the pixellated moments in the viewfinder are keeping close-by people apart.

I’ve decided to attempt to live more in the moment instead of planning for the photos and video with which I want to re-live the experience later.  It’s not easy, especially for those of us just a little addicted to sharing.  And I’m sure I’ll still carry my camera around wherever I go.  However, I know that my children will appreciate my efforts.  And I know I will appreciate being there more wholly.


About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to car culture, dealing with leaving a career I loved, and spouting off along the way. #RESIST
This entry was posted in Parenthood, People do silly things, random observation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Making Eye Contact and Being There

  1. charlywalker says:

    Pictures are well worth it especially when raising kids…..

  2. That’s why we love living in the digital age! And yet I was struck by the irony of wanting a *lasting* souvenir of something that I didn’t really experience.

  3. Heather Prichard says:

    Sorry to disagree. As a former professional photographer, I defend the intimacy of the medium. Wildly snapping is perhaps less so, but composing an image, especially in sports means you are involved, paying attention totally. Maybe you could reflect on how to take better pictures.

    • Oh I could definitely take better photographs. And I agree that the medium can be very intimate. However, I maintain that focusing on getting the image over experiencing the moment is a poor exchange. Obviously, for someone who is there *specifically* to document an event (journalist, photographer, international spy) it’s an entirely different situation.

  4. otterlove says:

    Thanks for the photo credit, and the great article, too. I can see both points of view. For me, the act of taking photos (not the end result, the event itself) feels selfish. Granted, the relationship a professional photographer has with his subject is intimate and co-operative. But, even then you could argue that at that moment the photographer is the star of the photo shoot, not the model. As Mutterschwester points out, this becomes exacerbated in public settings, where you as a photographer have to put yourself outside of the event in order to capture it well.

    • Frankly, even in portraiture, I think that the professional artist should be/is always the star.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. And for the perfect photo to accompany the post!

  5. Eloiza says:

    i love this post. and for those of us who are not professional photographers or artists, your message is profound. thanks for challenging us to think more about how moments of being fully present are gifts to our children. xo

  6. kvetchmom says:

    My husband refuses to take pictures or video of the kids because he feels like it distances him from them and the experience of the event. Which is all well and good, but it is nice to revisit memories via video every once in a while 🙂 I am torn…

    • So true. I swing between wanting to capture every-single-moment and wanting to really be a part of the moment. Maybe I need to get super famous so the paparazzi will follow me around and record it for me?!

  7. Lottie Nevin says:

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. You have written a very eloquent and interesting post that has certainly got me thinking.
    I agree with Eloiza, your message is profound!

  8. Pingback: Rage Against the iPad | This Weblog is Unique. Just Like They All Are.

  9. Anna says:

    I take a ton of photos all the time, but only before and after at “life events.” I don’t think it’s a decision I’ll regret, but I do feel weird sometimes documenting nothing when others seem to be documenting everything.

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