Friday, June 6, 2014

Letting the Photos Go

A recent letter to Dear Abby piqued my interest. The letter writer complained about her picture-taking obsessed in-laws. Her in-laws bring their fancy camera along to every visit and constantly take pictures of them and the grandchildren.  The picture-taking interfered with relationship-building and the grandparents missed out on opportunities to connect with the kids.

You don't get to be Dear Abby without having all the answers. Abby had a great solution.

A diplomatic approach would be to suggest to your in-laws that they "shoot" only for a limited time when they visit—no longer than the first 10 minutes. Explain that you realize the kids are growing and changing quickly, and you understand their desire to record all of it, but the children need a deeper kind of interaction with their grandparents in order to form a positive bond with them. Then suggest some ways they can relate to the little ones after the camera is put away.


Along the same lines, a recent article, Take Just One Photo (Instead of Thousands), in FLOW magazine presents a compelling argument for giving up the role of documentation and just enjoying the experience.  The article raises an interesting question.

Are we really happy with all those shoeboxes and PCs full of photos? 

When it comes to the children, it's debatable whether they really expect to have 15,980 pictures of themselves. Or 36 albums full of them blowing out candles, or taking part in a school play, or just a cute snapshot of them sitting at the table. Jacobs advocates giving your children one album when they leave home. It's a kind of documentary of their childhood, a reminder of the time they lived with you. But please note:  just the one album. Not fifteen. And no USB stick with a thousand pictures on it. 

It's the limitation that ensures the album is special. 

The article makes another point. If you are constantly shooting . . . you actually forget to participate, and instead become a viewer.

Often you see that we're so busy taking pictures that we forget to enjoy where we are, at that moment, in the the here and now, and the scent, and the flavor of the environment. . . . Taking pictures is fun, but it's more fun to to look around and experience what you see. . . . The key question is: what quality of life do I choose? The picture or the experience?


The article concludes with the recommendation to take a few meaningful photos and delete the rest.

Conscious experiences make conscious memories, and that makes you happy. So instead of letting go of the moments, you'd be better off letting the photos go.

Just a little note from my perspective. . .

As a tool of documentation, the camera and the picture-taking process can be intrusive, can invade privacy, put up walls, and make people feel self-conscious. Photographers can be greedy . . . "just one more picture."

But, it’s important to make the distinction between those pictures we take for documentary purposes and those we make for artful purposes (though they often overlap).


Photography is a form of creative expression for me. My camera helps me to be present in the moment, to see the world with fresh eyes, to appreciate beauty, to be still, to breathe. It is my passion.


The photographer and her camera can be tools of kindness, caring, and compassion—knowing when to take a picture that will preserve a precious moment or scene . . .


and when to let the picture go and simply savor the moment.

I'm linking up with Kim Klassen and my Friday Find is the ability to leave the camera at home—some days.

21 comments:

  1. Hi Donna,

    what a great Post - i like the way you take pictures!
    Thank you so much for stopping on my blog and leaving so lovely words there ...

    Have a happy day .. Frauke

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  2. Really great post, Donna. You have raised a big issue that I'm sure most of us camera enthusiasts are grappling with: when to shoot, and when to just enjoy the moment. It's a tricky one and after a lifetime behind the lens ... I'm still working on it. Lovely photos as well by the way, All the best, Bonny

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  3. I love everything about this post, Donna. Wow.

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  4. I also thank you for stopping on my blog! You always have something nice to say about my photos. From your photosI love especially the cherry basket!

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  5. Donna a wonderful, thought provoking post that has just come at the right time for me as I find myself taking far too many shots and not pressing delete enough.

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  6. a wonderful and thoughtful post...a line between excess and drought...can be tough to determine...but you are so right...sometimes its just best to be in the moment...

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  7. I love your still life photos so much, always simple and to the point goodness and richness.

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  8. great post Donna!! ' when to let the picture go and simply savor the moment..' mmm...just thinking on this :) thanks for that posting, really interesting. My favs. pics, the cherry ones, they are stunning!

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  9. I drew the line at school events because I always felt that it was my child's memory, not mine that was important. Plus, it was too distracting for poor pictures. I am a picture hoarder and am now going through older photos to weed out the 75% that need to go. My regret is not taking more of the adults with my sons. Good, thoughtful post

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  10. Wise words indeed! thank you for the reminder!

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  11. Interesting post! I just visited my 4 grandkids and wish I had taken MORE photos. Sometimes they would show me some treasure or smile just so I could take a photo. Like if it was important, they wanted me to document it. I don't think the camera detracted from our visit. Lots of good food for thought here. . . and I love that little silver basket in the next to last image. And your kitchen -- yes, I could be happy cooking there :)

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    1. Hi Sharon, I know what you mean. Sometimes I wonder why I didn't take MORE pictures of my grandparents and their home or my father working in our family restaurant . . . memories are all I have. I think if you're in the moment and loving taking the pictures, it's all good. Take as many pictures of those grandkids as you can!

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  12. I love the fruit . Outstanding.. Just a pleasure to stop and great way to pick me up. Thank you.

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  13. You make some very apt observations Donna and I love the blue with the cherries. Beautiful.

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  14. Thought provoking post.... In the last year that I started taking photos with my phone, I make an effort to use the photos I take in my art journals, altered books and scrap booking. I also trade my photos on Swap-bot so others can see them. More often than not, I don't take enough photos , sometimes forgetting to take any at all.

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  15. Great photographs of your old cameras and the cherries, Donna!

    It'll take another two weeks before we can pick the cherries from our cherry tree here in Germany!

    Have a great week, Uwe.

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  16. I really agree with less is more! And I'm learning to do just that. Those cherries! Humma!

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  17. Love your words and photos. As an only child of a camera obsessed father- Christmas always seemed to be about the photos more than the experience. I woke up to strobe lights illuminating my room every Christmas morning. Uggghhhh! I think of that as I photograph my grandchildren. Your photos are beautiful, Donna- I love the cherries especially!

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  18. I spend a lot of time behind the camera with all my traveling. People have made this comment to me - they ask how I enjoy the moment when I am always looking through the lens. But I see it a different way - I think I observe things much closer, more intimately when I view them through my camera. It makes me talk to strangers, learn about cultures, and makes me pay attention to the small details. so... I do not plan on leaving the camera behind any time soon : ) great post.

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    1. Yes, Cathy, I agree - won't leave my camera at home on my travels and adventures. And most of the time, I'm happy to have it by my side for family functions, too. But sometimes, I do feel like I become more concerned with getting the picture than enjoying the experience - but that's my personality - sometimes just too much! Keep clicking and sharing!

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  19. What a beautifully written and thoughtful post. I so enjoyed reading it because everything you wrote - I agree with. I love all your photos here - thanks for sharing!

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