I remember reading it somewhere that a guy went to a great place to watch sunset and missed it entirely because he tried to get it all photographed within the few minutes when it happened. All he left with was a handful of digital photographs and the darkness that surrounded him after the sunset. For the moment he was triumphant. He was able to capture the rare sight at various split seconds. But after returning from the place, he soon realized that he actually missed the entire sunset! Instead of soaking into the moment and experience it, he saw it through a second ‘eye’- a far inferior one than the original.
"HE GETS SO BUSY IN CLICKING AND ADJUSTING THE MACHINE TO GET THE PERFECT FRAME THAT, MANY A TIMES, HE MISSES THE REAL PICTURE."
The story was found very familiar to me.
I was in his shoes many a time. I carried my lenses wherever I could. I took pride in capturing the rare moments, conquered heights, travelled places, cherished get-togethers and all exciting endeavors. Unlike the conventional cameras which had a cost limitation of buying rolls of films, digital technology made us free to look into anything through camera eyes without caring for the pocket. As an architect, I found more fondness in framing buildings and built spaces. And, believe it or not, most of the architects I stumble upon had this animated interest in photography. He is, through his profession, trained to see objects in relation to others, appreciate the tonal variations, depth in spaces and, above all, to visualise in frames. Not surprising is thus camera becoming an extension to his creative searches.
Its appreciable to take photographs of rare moments or great buildings without missing it. But the actual problem begins when one starts see things ‘only’ through the viewfinder. He gets so busy in clicking and adjusting the machine to get the perfect frame that, many a times, he misses the real picture.
I have found this happening when people see Tajmahal for the first time (fortunately I did not carry a camera on my first visit!). The entire experience of seeing Taj is orchestrated through a series of transition spaces and frames that when one really see the majestic monument, he gets spellbound. It is to be experienced with naked eye, not with a 'digital sensor analysing the incoming light to be converted into pixels'. The whole experience is so surrealistic that you carry the moment throughout your life. That makes seeing Taj special. I had friends who walked through the entire transition through their camera eyes. They captured all the split seconds of experience so that they could share the same to the world. Experiencing something as special as Taj is not a moment for Facebook, but for your entire life.
After years of clicking, I, now, take a new approach. I decided to 'live the moment' first and to keep my camera off through the experience of being in a place or during the important phase of an experience. I take pictures only if I could go around the space again or during the extension of the experience. Otherwise I prefer to ‘miss’ the capture!
I am not trying to diminish the importance of photographs, especially in architecture profession, but acknowledge its true potential. You can read about the trap of designing for getting photographed in the post 'Fashion in Architecture'. It is true that a picture is worth thousand words. But, I prefer not to miss the experience just for the sake of clicking it.
[All photographs in this post are taken by the author]