Our collective photo-assisted memories

18 Oct
2012

Upon hearing of our impending move to the Ithaca area, one of our college buddies shared a story from the New York Times about the decline of the college bar scene in places like Ithaca. According to the author, students aren’t drinking less, they’re just drinking at bars less (they’re drinking in their rooms, then going to bars to throw up, I guess). I’m sure it’s not relevant that the students the reporter interviewed seem to have lied about their ages.

One idea in particular struck me from the article:

[Students] refus[e] to head out until they have captured the perfect photo, which they promptly post to Instagram and Facebook.

“You could have this really amazing night, but if you didn’t get a picture, it’s like it didn’t happen,” said Ms. Parr, 22, a senior at Gettysburg. … “It’s crazy how much pictures consume our lives. Everyone knows how to pose and how to hold your arm and which way is most flattering, and everyone wants the picture taken with their phone.”

Hmm…sounds tiring. I’d rather be drinking!

But really, why do we take pictures? Why do I take pictures? In every “big name” place we’ve visited, we’re surrounded by other camera-wielding people, all of us taking the same picture of the same thing from the same place (all with pretty decent cameras).

Well, just like those crazy college kids, I need photos to remind myself where I was, what (um, I said what, not who) I did, what I ate, who I saw, what I drank. I need that reminder, that memory from a specific place and time, otherwise I’ll lose it. I take pictures of things that I want to get rid of but want to remember, like the first pair of Doc Martins I bought with a summer’s worth of babysitting money when I was 15. Digital files or negatives are a very condensed form of storage, an extension of both your closet and of your brain.

That said, we should all relax a little bit about this photo-taking thing. I mean, nature doesn’t always cooperate with your photo ops. Grizzly maulings aside…mountains will be clouded-in, coasts will be fog-blanketed, sunsets will suck. Bad photos don’t equal bad vacations. Do you really need to go to the extreme of hiring a professional photographer for a Facebook brag-album? No way. Spend that money on another activity or a fabulously expensive dinner and take crappy photos to remember it by. Wait, don’t get me wrong, I do like the fact that professional photographers are finding a new, lucrative line of business! Maybe we should all toss our personal cameras and hire a few pros to follow us around, full time…

What about you? Do you take photos when you vacation? If so, why — if not, why not?

  • Derick

    I take pictures on vacation for same reasons you do, but I also know people who obsess over getting the best shot. I fell into this once and then realized that I wasn’t appreciating the beautiful scenery. By the way, for your future travel plans, I highly recommend spending some time Ecuador. Quito is incredible and the bus ride from Riobamba (where you’ll see Chimborazo – the closest point on Earth to the Sun) to Cuenca is possibly the most beautiful drive I’ve ever seen.