I read an interesting quote recently. George Clooney observed that whether he’s signing an autograph for a fan or just saying hello, the person has held up a camera phone or is shooting video or snapping pictures. Of this, he said “I think people are experiencing less and recording more.”
Am I guilty of recording a moment rather than experiencing it? Is my need to photograph the moments in my life my way of experiencing it or am I losing something by shielding myself behind the camera? I must admit that there have been times when that barrier makes me feel more at ease, like when I’m shooting people and events. There are also many times when my focus for visiting a particular site, wherever it is, is precisely to photograph. Photography in those cases is my excuse to experience something. Photography is what drives me to those experiences in the first place and without it, I doubt I would exert the energy.
A recent example of this happened just the other day. I have been inHalifax,Nova Scotiafor the past few days on a tourism related trip. Last year when I came to do this same show, it was my first time inHalifaxand the first show I was doing for the organization I work for. It rained the entire weekend and I didn’t feel inclined to explore the landscape much beyond the show venue and the hotel. This year the weather has been better, still chilly but not so wet. When I arrived on Thursday, after a nine hour drive and an hour spent setting up the booth, I decided that if I was going to get an opportunity to shoot at a location nearby this would be it. I got back in the car and drove to Peggy’s Cove, a 28 mile drive on twisting turning roads that hug the harbors.
Why? Why did I give up the chance to settle in and have dinner? Why make the drive?
I went to photograph it. I went to experience it the way I know best, through the lens. I went to find the best place to stand to get the shot of the fishing boat and the lobster traps.
It was cold and windy and the light was quickly dimming. I shot the cove and then the lighthouse at the point. The pink sky and dark water, the crashing surf and the weather worn lighthouse were perfect together.
The images made the experience and the experience made the images. And now I’ll always remember that night I drove like a maniac to catch the last light at Peggy’s Cove. I believe that without having done that, the night would have been another in a string of dinners at the hotel and in my room to get some work done. I don’t tend to record that type of evening and it would have been lost.
For me, looking back at the images I’ve created and the moments they capture brings me right back to the experience. It reminds me of what the sand felt like under my feet when I shot the kayak on the beach inMexico. It brings back the heat of that first afternoon in California, when we wound our way up the Hollywood hills to get to a place we could see the famed Hollywood sign, and I remember the narrowest of streets to get there and the unusual ways homes have been designed and built to accommodate the hillside. That afternoon is alive to me when I see the shots of my daughter grinning with the white letters behind her. And now with the Peggy’s Cove shots, I expect that I will remember how windy and cold it was out there on the point and how my fingers needed considerable time to warm before I could grip the wheel to drive back. I’ll be able to recall how I was able to wander the docks in the cove relatively freely, peering over the edges into the boats.
Recording the experience or experiencing the moment? I don’t believe they are mutually exclusive. I think they enhance each other and for people like me, the need to record leads to a deeper experience of the moment and one that can last forever by its existence.