Our 'shuttered' lives
“Bakit mo sila iniistorbo eh nagmo-moment sila?” (Why are you bothering them when they are having their “moment”?)
I overheard a young woman saying this to someone over the phone. I just find it really interesting that we found a way to make “moment” a verb – because in essence, it is! You have to attend to an instance of spacetime for it to matter to you. That is the only time it becomes your moment.
We have over 100 million smartphones in the country which translates to, among others, a camera each for every Filipino. How much are we relying on this other eye so we could remember our experiences?
From the galaxies of photos out there, it is safe to say that it has become part and parcel of the Homo Digitus that we have become, to click away at every vista we see. We do this when we are going through rites of passage like weddings, birthdays or on vacation visiting various scenes. But we also do this now when we are eating, brushing our teeth, or doing other mundane things. But how much do we remember of the things that we take photos of?
A study says not much. When the experiment had people taking photos of designated whole objects in a museum, they remembered the objects and their locations significantly less than those people who did not take photos of the same objects.
The researcher, Linda Henkel, pointed out that the camera eye, even if you are the one taking the photograph, is different from your mind’s eye. We still need to pay attention to what we are seeing in order to remember it. “Clicking” to shoot is not necessarily “attending.”
But there was one surprising exception: the zoomers. Those who zoomed in on a part of the objects that were asked to be photographed, remembered the objects more and not only that, they even remembered details outside the zoomed frame as well as they did the object within the frame.
This is why photography is an art. It takes deep attention to make a photograph speak of the moment just like poetry is the articulated life of a moment. This is also why having a camera does not necessarily make you a photographer. When you ask a photographer what s/he saw – it is always never just a literal description of the image. When Steve McCurry took the famous photograph of a girl with the most stunning eyes, who became the cover of the June 1985 issue of the National Geographic Magazine, McCurry said that photo "summed up for me the trauma and plight, and the whole situation of suddenly having to flee your home and end up in refugee camp, hundreds of miles away." Those eyes, captured momentarily by the light, was our wormhole through her soul. Indeed, a picture can paint a thousand words but only if YOU are really attending to the moment of capture and not by merely clicking at a scene.
Since we cannot pay attention to more than one thing at at time, it follows that taking pictures takes away from other things you can pay attention to, like maybe really appreciating the scene in front of you. We have been taking so many photos because we are constantly armed with a camera that I wonder how much time it really takes away from “pagmo-moment.” Others like Rhett Allain of Wired magazine did the math of how many pictures he has taken and even projected how many more he will take in the years to come. You may just realize that instead of gaining memories, you are losing out on them by taking too many photos.
Some people think we take way too many photos simply because it is free if you don’t count the energy required to power the shot. I think it is just our tendency to horde. We horde food, afraid to go hungry so we think we can stock up on photos to save ourselves if we start losing our memories. But apparently, they are not the same.
Others think that we now take photos mainly for others to see so that we earn for ourselves some social currency. If that were true, then this digital camera age has turned us into permanent high school kids, brandishing “proof of experience” to gain the badge of “cool”, that we forget to actually “see” the objects we are photographing.
I think our “shuttered” lives are outsourcing our memories to our cameras. The time we should spend attending to the moment is being spent clicking at it. The trouble is, we do not get that moment back. If you don’t have moments, then you really don’t have memories. Just pictures. – Rappler.com