We went to the most beautiful wedding this weekend at Campovida in Hopland, Ca. I was excited to shoot lots of special photographs at the wedding as part of the gift I was planning to give the bride and groom. After several hours of driving I realized that my fully charged camera and gear was still on my dining table at home. It took me a good hour or two to let go of this (ask Matt). It was a particular kind of torture to see photo after photo I would have taken, and then with a sigh pull out my point and shoot and hope for the best.
There was a gift of course in setting down my role of photographer– a different kind of presence. I could hold the jam jar of fresh lemonade during the ceremony, I could cry without looking through a viewfinder, I could have a glass of wine without wondering if we were losing the light.
I had to consider what I was really attached to. The gift I wanted to give them? My compulsion to capture beauty? My desire to be useful? Something to do with my hands if I didn’t feel like small talk? Maybe it was all of that. But I do wonder sometimes what I am missing when I have my camera. It is a balance I am very curious about and try to stay conscious of– how much (and when) does my camera bring me deeper into the moment and when does it pull me farther away? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this wise readers.
I think my favorite moment of the entire night though was when the DJ played Don’t Stop Believing. I think at least 30 of us rose up and gathered in a circle with our fists in the air, singing along at the top of our lungs. Oh, if I had only had my camera, any camera, for that one. 😉
your point and shoot is magical in your hands Andrea
I think about this a lot with my kids. How do I capture our life but also be involved in our life? I think it’s much like the balance of motherhood. How do I give of myself but also keep myself? I think maintaining this balance is a never ending process.
I think about this all the time, because if I don’t have a camera, I am probably thinking about what details to savor and capture so I can write about it later. It’s the dilemma of the artist: life is happening at the same moment we are making art of it, so are we living or making art? The only answer I have is that if there’s a question, if you aren’t sure, you have to get really quiet and listen for the answer in that most truest of places inside yourself, because you do know when you’ve gone too far, when you need to put the camera or the pen down and BE.
I use to take my camera everywhere with me, people called it my third arm. One of my kids was in a school program and for some reason I forgot my camera at home. At first it stressed me out since I wasn’t going to have pictures to “record” the event. But I noticed something…. I wasn’t stressing out over finding the “perfect” seat, I wasn’t stressing out over the people seated near me that were much taller then me. For once I was able to watch my kid perform and I really enjoyed it. Sure I didn’t have the pictures , but I had so much more……. I gave my child the gift of my full attention and those memories are worth far more then the few pictures I would have taken.
I think about this often. I love my camera and I generally love the pictures I take and the gift it gives people. I also know that I somethimes hide behind it in many ways. It’s a crazy balance that I must say I am not great at. I am learning to take my camera with me and not be consumed with all the possible photo’s I can take. It’s HARD!! but I am learning. it is harder for me to have to be one thing or the other so I will learn to be both.
When I started noticing that my arms / hands were hurting on vacations because I HAD to carry so much equipment – I made a decision to “lighten the load”. I carry a Lumix (micro 4/3) now and my iphone. I know there are shots that I miss because I don’t have my big camera, but as my friend says – “the environment ‘lets you in’ when you DON’T have a big camera”. He took all his fancy equipment to Japan – and ended up getting his best shots with his iphone. I think it’s a good challenge to ‘let go’. It IS the photographer’s eye after all… not the equipment 🙂 Your work is beautiful no matter what you’re shooting with!
I can understand your consternation over the gift, because that was a planned project that you worried might be compromised, but as for the other things you were attached to – my vote is to set them free. Unless you are the paid photographer at an event, I think a non-encumbering point-and-shoot is perfectly suitable. Because really, what is it you are trying to capture – the perfect shot, or the experience? Even crappy photos can stir fond memories. (But there’s no crap evident here – the photos above are stellar, no matter how they came to be!) As for going “naked” (sans camera), I’ve always found that when you experience a strong emotional connection with another person, or a place or even an object (as you did during the Journey-lovin’ dancefest), you don’t need photographic evidence to remember it. It’s like our emotions take mental photographs for us, so that we can recall the experience whenever we choose. And hey, maybe it’s for the best the dancing wasn’t recorded – the raised fist isn’t always the most flattering of poses. hee hee! : )
I totally understand this. I’m the family photographer, as well as my church’s photographer and the random photographer for a lot of other stuff. There are many times that I’m relieved to have the camera on me and to have a “job” to do (though I’m rarely paid) because I’m not great at making small talk, so I get out of it that way. I felt this way at my recent high school reunion, where I would not have known how to connect with people I haven’t interacted with for a long time, but there is evidence of my presence nevertheless because I’m the one who took the pictures that became our official record of the events.
And I have mixed experiences when I don’t have a camera on me. Sometimes I’m very relieved that it isn’t my responsibility, and I can just drink in the experience and be there. But, like you, I then see things that “should” be captured (what does that even mean?) that nobody is getting — a moment that is fleeting and I’m the only one who seems to even notice. There was a lady bug on the bride’s train in a wedding that I was standing in, and the flower girl was trying to shoo it away — a wonderfully sweet and funny moment, and I remember wishing there was a camera on my glasses to get that moment on film (even as I stood holding a bouquet and supporting my friend). I saw goose parents leading their new babies to the river — no camera. I think pictures are one of my best ways of sharing with the world when the words aren’t there, and a way that draws some appreciation, I suppose.
I would like to point that, while I understand that as a professional photographer you are used to having a super camera, you actually had a camera and you took one of the most amazing photographs I’ve ever seen in my life.
So I’m not buying this “I didn’t have a camera” story.
that’s the story of my life. i’ll be the first to admit that i always forget my camera (not for work though!!) and i don’t like carrying one around. i’ll probably regret that i don’t record moments as much as i think i should, but for me, my brain is wired to think technically/aestetically about the image once i start taking pictures, and honestly…most of the times i feel like an outsider looking in as opposed to being part of the scene so to speak. it’s something i think about all the time…engaging myself in the moment vs. recording it.
I too have struggled with (and tried to deny) that question — am I using my camera as a kind of shield. Last spring my daughter was confirmed in our church and I purposely left my camera at home so I could be just a present participant rather than a impartial recorder.
On the other hand … so many moments of seeing perfect light and mourning the absence of a camera. Ah – the struggles of those of us chasing the light! Thanks for posting.
Well I just got my first dslr camera this summer, right before a two month trek around Europe. When my partner started looking at my photos she said, “I’m so glad you have this camera, you are a witness to our lives in such a different way now.” I loved hearing this but it got me thinking immediately that I need to make sure I either put the camera down, or give it to her to use too because I don’t want to “witness” our lives, I want to be present to experience it as well.
I love your pics of this wedding, I too was thinking magical and dreamy.
I love your post, Andrea. Your photos are gorgeous!! I too get torn between diving into an event and experiencing the amazing angles and lighting, etc when I pull out my camera or my painting pad. And the other side of totally immersing myself in the event without being distracted by my camera or paints. Both are so wonderful.
I try to decide based on where I feel my rhythm is at. On vacation, have I taken in enough sights that I need a break from the action and want to dive into my own world of photograph or painting.
If I’m visiting family, I want a balance of really being with them without the distraction of my camera or paints. But I also want to have time to create images of memories and see those things I can only experience through my camera and paints.
Thanks for bringing this up, Andrea. It’s something dear to my heart!
Yes, this is such an important topic for a photographer because what we do happens simultaneously with an event. The possibilities for point of view are endless. I really resonant with all the comments made too. Sometimes it is important to be completely present and give people, senses, interactions and emotions our full attention as we experience them, other times using our eye and intuition make a great contribution as well. I love and am grateful for my camera, but it is truly between me and the world, that’s just the truth of it. As I focus on the sight I decide to capture and use my dexterity to manipulate the controls, the touch, taste, smell and sounds of the moment fade away. The “true” glorious play of the light can only be “captured” in degrees that will never truly reach the height of what the naked eye perceives. This is the plain truth of photography. Like any other art it is a distilled view of all senses and subtleties beyond.
I found that more and more I have been putting down my camera, because I was defining myself by it too much. I used to do DJ and event photography, loving the challenge of capturing a person in action. More recently I take set photography stills, what I like to call a “guerrilla” form of photography where my purpose is not to interact my subjects but hide nearby, surreptitiously capturing them in their “natural habitat”. My other current favourite form is macro, where I get so close to my subject that every detail of form, texture, colour and light is an exquisite study; as though the viewer got a centimetre away from the subject and became one with its perfection. This is where I needed to go with my photography, but we are all unique. I think this is why it is such a struggle to know what is the right degree of naked involvement/being present, versus taking photos. Firstly, there is no universal answer and secondly, it constantly shifts and changes in a non-linear progression. For one friend’s wedding you might be SO into snapping away, but at another one in the following month you’ll be all about dancing it up; then the next time you’ll come up with a theme and do only that. As with everything in life, asking and being open to the answer that comes is the key, right? Trusting that you made the decision is when you’ll live what you were supposed to! You know all about that, Andrea, as I’m sure your readers do as well.
I suppose the thing to “do” is to ask. It seems the stress came from uncertainty (and doesn’t always). Just a few months ago I started asking as I never had before, whether I ask God or the universe, or the tree outside my window, I don’t think it really matters. Just to ask and means to get an answer, just like lists and manifesting; a sort of resonant call and response. Like yin and yang, one never exists without the other. Hmmm… wow, how many questions does that answer really??
Thank you Andrea for the food for thought! I loved your interview with Goddess Leonie today, by the way. I’ll be back to read as I know so many others will too.
Gorgeous! I love they had honey as favors…perfect!
I think the gift is in sometimes not having the camera, and being able to be more present in the moment, as part of the moment instead of capturing it.
Your memory is a fabulous camera.
I love a great picture, but at our own wedding we decided to minimize the photos and forgo the video altogether because I didn’t want the video to become the memory. We remember it the way we do, and that’s good to me.
The pictures didn’t become important to me until Erick’s dad died, and then of course every shot with him was precious. Is that good?
Those are yours alright! . We at least need to get these people stealing images to start blogging! They probably just did a image search and grabbed them. They look good though!