You haven’t been on a date in months, let alone a blind date. When was the last time you let someone set you up? A year ago? Two years ago? Wait… never. This has never happened. You must be getting desperate. Whatever, you know this town so you know you can show her a good time. Hell, you’ll show yourself a good time and she’s just invited.
You pick the restaurant, set up the reservation, text her the time and place. All the cards are in place. Tomorrow night you’ll give this a shot.
You like it casual, which is why you chose this place. Burgers are great, atmosphere is not too quiet, but not too loud. Perfect tone to keep your conversation at your table without getting to that dull roar you where you have to lean in a bit to hear what she says, and talk just louder than you’re comfortable. You wait out front until she arrives. Which one is she? She said she would wear a yellow dress. There she is. Oh, she’s pretty. Great smile. You walk her in, grab a seat, and hit the menu.
Conversation is light, easy, but you’re doing most of the talking. That’s ok, she’s new to the city and you’re steering the ship. She will open up eventually. You both order (you love her choice, it’s one of your mainstays, so she is earning points with you right there) and pass the time discussing her move to New York while sipping beer and the occasional gulp of water. Summers in the city are brutal.
The food arrives, you reach to grab yours and look up, only to find her cell phone hovering over the plate, taking a photo of the meal before her first bite.
You don’t think there will be a second date.
Harsh, right? But that’s kind of how I feel about taking photos all the time. I’m so burnt out on the constant documentation of every piece of every day that I can’t even get myself to bring a camera with me on personal trips anywhere. If I haven’t been hired to do a job, odds are the camera is being left at home. I have pathetically few images in my iPhone camera library. My Instagram game is weak. I have nothing worth Snapchatting, and can’t really bring myself to watch the same thing from other people day after day on that network. Periscope? Same deal.
I am flooded with constant interaction with photos taken by other people, and that it is killing my desire to use my camera casually.
Back when I was in college, I would go to a lot of concerts in Spokane, Washington. Many, many bands went through that town and it was a great way to spend a weekend. One particular weekend, a band I liked quite a bit was in town and I was unable to go. A friend of mine was going, and I asked him to pick me up a t-shirt, and if he did I would pay for him to get a poster or a t-shirt for himself. He thanked me for the offer, but said he didn’t want to buy something at the show. He said he didn’t ever do that.
He said when he went to concerts, what he took home afterwards was the memory. He didn’t need something physical to commemorate the event. The experience was more than enough.
At the time this mentality did not jive with me, but today that’s kind of how I feel about everything. I don’t need a photo of the meal, a shot of that sunset, a picture of that dog or a selfie with friends in that park. What would I do with all those photos anyway? I can’t be the only person who is tiring of the selfie sticks and Facebook.
The problem is, this feeling of distaste for how others are using photography and the focus on self-worship is killing my love for photography as a craft. When I take my camera out, I am embarrassed because I think I look like those people I’m starting to loathe.
And I hate that I feel this way.
I want to love photography again, and recently thanks to a trip to Portland, I am remembering why I love taking pictures for me again. But at the same time, yesterday I found myself simply content to watch a beautiful sunset, with no desire to use the camera that was in my hand. I forced myself to take this tepid shot before feeling too self conscious to continue.
Did I say self conscious? Ok, maybe that’s only part of it. But you get what I’m saying. I don’t want to be those people stopping to take a selfie every 30 minutes, photographing their coffee at every opportunity and letting their food get cold while they frame the perfect shot. I’m not interested in it, and in my desire to not be that guy, I’m fighting “that tourist feeling” by not taking photos at all. And there is something very, very wrong with that.
I’m making a resolution to let my feelings on how people around me are using cameras not affect how I feel about it. I’m going to take photos and love doing it again. I’m going to stop for photographs, and I’m going to look like a tourist in my own town. I am going to be ok with that. But at the same time…
Just eat the damn burger.
Cover image by Tam Nguyen