The Curse of Digital Photography
by John Shingleton – His website is HERE
I am convinced that digital photography is ruining the travel experience for many travellers. They are blindly snapping away and not taking in what they are looking at. Whilst on a bus tour in Lyon in France a few weeks ago a man in the seat in front of me was taking photos in every direction in a frenzy.It was as if he had a neurological disorder-his whole body twitching as he snapped left, right and centre. He took in nothing of what he was photographing.He was taking photos for the sake of taking photos.
I first really noticed this frenzied indiscriminate snapping in Strasbourg Cathedral in France last year but now I see it everywhere I travel. There I was in one of the great medieval buildings of Europe and I was surrounded by people who were not seeing the magnificence of the building. It was the same story in Notre Dame in Paris and in Chartres Cathedral. Some of the greatest buildings of Europe photographed but unseen by the multitudes. It’s perhaps even worse in museums. Why go to a museum and then spend the whole time photographing the exhibits? Hooray to the museums such as the Guggenheim and the Frick Collection in New York who have banned photography. It makes it so much more comfortable for those of us who want to look at the exhibits and take them in.
It is not a laughing matter-people really are missing out on a critical part of the travel experience. They are not observing and taking in what they came to see. You may have already have seen the two photos below — both taken from the same spot in St Peters,Rome but 8 years apart. The first at the investiture of Pope Benedict and the second this year at the investiture of Pope Francis. What a difference.
Why did all those snappers in 2013 wait so patiently to see the Pope and then just take a photo? Would they have not been better to have stayed at home and seen the Pope onTV? They missed seeing him in reality.
I went to the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and I was fortunate to have a seat very close to where the Olympic flame was lit but my Leica stayed in my bag. I wanted to savour the moment.My brain was my camera. No camera -not even a Leica -could encapsulate that amazing atmosphere. And it is often the same when I travel now. On a recent trip to France I saw some magnificent panoramas near the Pyrenees . I just stood and savoured them when It would have been so easy to try to photograph them.My memories are suffice.
When photography used film this blanket snapping was not an issue but now with smartphones it is even worse than when it was just digital cameras as the snapping obsessed are photographing everything and then posting it onto their Facebook page or sending the photos to their friends immediately. There surely must come a point when people say “I am being bored rigid by all these boring photos I keep being sent” and it will taper off and maybe even stop. Bring that day on I say.But it is not just smartphones the big black Canon or Nikon DSLR is still the camera of choice for many European tourists particularly the older ones. What do they all do with the photos?
Faced with this snapping overload all around me when I travel I am making a very conscious effort to use my camera very sparingly . I am just using my camera to take just a few, hopefully,interesting considered photos not as a recording device for my every move and every sight seen and I know that my travel experience and my photography is all the better for it.Just to round off this lament a few considered photos from my recent travels. All from my Leica X1.
Nice article – I agree with you 100% from my own experience. We live too fast. “Go there, take a shot, post it go elsewhere”… and so on 🙂 From time to time I leave my camera at home and just take pictures with my eyes and brain -it is very interesting and refreshing experience… and it’s 120% eco&bio 😀
What a pretentious post. It’s a free world…if I want to take 20,000 pics on my holiday than so be it. Who are you to say that I am ‘missing’ anything. How do you know my pics are ‘snapshots’ and not works of art? I’ll tell ya what…..I took a LOT of pics on my trip to Wyoming/Utah a few years ago and I don’t regret it for a second. Long after my fuddled memory fades I will still have stills to look at that bring me and my family enjoyment.
I spent 5 hrs sitting on a ledge of a precipice in Deadhorse Canyon waiting for good light (which never came), but I took in every second of that experience, and yes, I also took some pictures. I got up at 4:30am to shoot Oxbow Bend/Mt Moran and sat at the river while a moose swam across the water 100 ft in front of me, the coffee warm in my hand in the crisp fall air. Guess what, I took lots of pics then too.
Everyone of us are different and our experiences are unique, don’t be so quick to judge.
John might say who are you to judge him and his post as pretentious.
@Clint – well said.
Doug Frost and Clint,when I wrote this story whilst I was trying to ask a serious question I wrote it with my tongue firmly in my cheek and indeed I went out of my way to embellish it to provoke comment and debate.I should add that the original ‘straight’ version of the story made dull reading and I don’t think that Steve would have published it .Some respondents seem to have noticed that it was written tongue in cheek as indeed were most of my responses to comments.You obviously have not which is a pity .
Overall I think that the majority of the comments above are positive to the questions I posed in the post.Others have put their own spin on what I said and have surmised that I was against people taking photos of everything.I never said that in the article.I merely asked whether they were perhaps missing something whilst they did so.If people want to take millions of photos that really is their business.I just hope they don’t regret it later as indeed one of the respondents above does.Other have implied that I am against digital photography.No way.Digital photography is fantastic.
At the end of the day I know as well as anyone that if you put your head above the parapet and write any story for a succesful blog like Steve’s and put up some photos to go with it you can expect a broad range of reactions including invairably some who seem to want to criticise and put the boot into anything.That does not phase me in any way but I do find it rather sad.May I suggest that you consider getting your typing fingers clicking on a story for Steve’s blog ( yours Doug Frost will have to be a bit longer than your three word contribution above) and then we can all judge whether it is pretentious and whether those hours spent waiting in Deadhorse Canyon were worth it.
I don’t get the “it’s none of your business” posts. Isn’t everything public everyone’s business ? Just because someone expresses an opinion, you don’t have to like it or listen. History is full of people offering other people advice. Television is full of stories of dysfunctional families and the experts who rescue them from their misery. There’s no shortage of infatuation with the whacky ways in which other people live their lives. But now, suddenly, this one author doesn’t have the right to share an opinion ?
FWIW, I agree with him and admit that I’m guilty myself at times. (Particularly when it comes to shooting my daughters various performances – school, dance, etc.)
An even bigger problem IMO is people who are too busy (not taking pictures) on their phones to experience the world around them or interact with the people they’re actually *with*. But I don’t expect a lot of sympathy with this point of view 🙂
Dennis…the point is that while the author is entitled to an opinion….the people he criticizes are just as entitled to theirs. It’s more than a little critical to be condemning complete strangers for how they may or may not use their cameras on THEIR personal holidays. I understand the point he was attempting to make, and while there is a grain of truth to it the point is moot.
Case in point, how does he not know that one of these crazy ‘clicker’ tourists is not well travelled but a person of modest means who is on a once in a lifetime trip….pretty sure that person wants to capture some stills of the holiday, snapshots or not.
“An even bigger problem IMO is people who are too busy (not taking pictures) on their phones to experience the world around them or interact with the people they’re actually *with*. ”
Agreed. I think that is kind of the point John is making. I saw a clip of an American guy who had taken his first date to a cafe in Paris and was busy texting his friends about where he was. The first date was the last date.
Some people try to capture “images” some people try to capture “memories”. I think there’s enough room in this world for both.
Its the same with bird photographers, no only do they often not really ‘see’ the bird, some that I know are not even interested ‘in’ the bird, they just want to take a photograph thats ‘better’ than everyone else’s photograph. Even when looking at the resultant photo, the concentration is on sharpness, composition, lighting etc and not at all on the actual subject. I gave up this pursuit a couple of years ago because of this, now I just take binoculars. However, people are free to take as many / as few photographs as they wish.. whatever floats their boats I guess….
Let all those people snap away. If they’re so invested in getting a picture rather than living the moment, then they deserve what they get. Obviously they’re not as deep or sensitive, or as esthetically sophisticated as you or I, and they couldn’t possibly have gotten the spiritual uplift that we get from those moments. So let them snap away and think that they’re as good as we more contemplative and introspective folk.
The phenomena with crowds of people snapping away with their phones or tablets will soon fade away. Technology moves on fast. The future will be google glasses and other head-mounted cameras that can take photos or film everything people are looking at. Then we will return to those ancient days when people with “real” cameras took their photos with great consideration and everybody wore a hat. Yes, hats will become fashionable again as a carrier for the “DOLC”, Day Of Life Cameras!
We had the same experience at the Vatican in 2010. My kids couldn’t see over the outstretched photo-taking arms. No one observed the “no photography” signs, and no one enforced them.
Some folk just don’t get “tongue-in-cheek” comments and miss the real message here I think. Maybe they are too busy thinking how smart they will sound when they write their negative comment to actually consider what was written. The thing is, we have all done this – gotten excited and taken too many pictures. I missed all of my kids’ school events when they were growing up because my eye was plastered to the eyepiece of my camcorder – all to record things too boring to watch again. My wife has commented that I miss parts of our vacations because I always have my camera with me, but while I try to be aware of photo ops, I don’t actually have the camera on all the time and when I do take a picture it is usually quickly and after I’ve already considered what will capture not only what I’m seeing, but what I’m feeling. It’s that second element that completely escapes these snap shooters, who are too busing pushing a button to feel anything. That’s the tragedy – they are someplace special and they should be focusing on how that makes them feel rather than taking infinite snaps just because they can. Hopefully, this fad too will pass, but for now I think it is only natural that someone who takes photography seriously is a little taken aback by the behavior, which is anything but “exploring photography” as someone put it.
As always, the accompanying photos are beautiful. Just goes to show you that even elitist brand cameras can do good work in the right hands. ROFL. Well, not really, for those who are impaired at spotting tongue-in-cheek humor. Just :).
So stop doing it! You don’t need to project your issues onto others who may be having a good time and enjoying what they are doing in order to correct your own behavior. It is arrogant and pretentious to think you know better than somewhat else what the other person enjoys. If they are not bothering you it is just none of your business.
I go to my grandson’s soccer and t-ball games and thoroughly enjoy watching the kids play and the coaches try to herd cats. I also take a lot of photos of them and really enjoy them afterwards. So does the rest of my family. You don’t know what is going on in my mind when I am doing this. In fact, I don’t get less enjoyment because I take photos while the kids are playing, I get more. I would be very offended if some other parent sitting by me decided I had no feeling because I was taking photos.
I think the worse thing ever is when you want to contemplate on something…and there are all these people who put their arms in front of your view to record their crappy smartphone picture clic clic clic clic so you cannot see anything.
It was same few years ago with camcorders. Don’t you remember that guy keeping its eyes on its camcorder viewfinder during the all event instead of appreciating the event itself with its on eyes instead of looking through a viewfinder for an hour or two ?
I will join the chorus bemoaning the crowds at many sites. The worst are the Japanese tour groups. They are an international plague and should be outlawed. They travel as herds and crowd out everyone else wherever they go. Sometimes I think it is deliberate. I was once photographing the wall of a temple and a Japanese group walked right in between me and the wall and stopped. They didn’t stop to look at the wall, it is just the place where their guide decided to stop and speak. They knew I was there and were oblivious or intentionally hogging the site. As others have noted, cruise ships are having much of the same effect in many historic coastal cities. The good news is the crowds are only there at mid day.
That said, I completely disagree with Mr. Singleton’s article. He is not criticizing how other people are unnecessarily inconsiderate and interfere with his experience of the something. He is criticizing how others experience something, which is arrogant and conceited. As long as he can see a place as he wants he has no gripe against others who may want to take lots of photos.
I also disagree with the comments like JamesF deploring the people who take a lot of snapshots. Snapshots are one of the most legitimate and powerful forms of photography. A snapshot has a special ability to trigger a flood of memories and emotions for people in the photos or others who know them, more so as they get older. In reality, snapshots, along with documentary photos, may be the most powerful form of photography. That is why someone will grab their photos and movies first if their house is on fire. It doesn’t matter if a snapshot is meaningless to a stranger. People don’t take snapshots to please Mr. Singleton or JamesF.
I too would try to get a photo of a pope being invested if I were there. I would do it for the same reason I bought several pieces of the Berlin Wall when I was in Berlin just after the Wall came down. These are small pieces of concrete with paint on one side. The paint was graffiti on the Wall before it was demolished. I figured they were genuine because it would be harder to fake them at that time. To someone who didn’t know where they came from and didn’t grow up during the Cold War these pieces of concrete would appear an absurd thing to have but I consider them major pieces of memorabilia. Everyone who took photos of the investiture created memorabilia and their memories are no less legitimate or meaningful than Mr. Singleton’s.
Ultimately, the power of a photo is not its technical quality but whether is shows something interesting. Snapshots are interesting to the people who take them but they are very personal. Individual snapshots never pretended to be for a mass audience.
A shot that is interesting for people you don’t know has to be about something that appeals to everyone. I am referring to the subject, not the technical quality. I don’t think Mr. Singleton understands that. His mistake is worth noting because it reveals how I think he misses the whole point of photography. For me (and speaking only for me) the photos he posted failed completely as examples of what a good photographer will take on a trip. They are technically very good but the subjects are banal and nothing about them is memorable (except perhaps to him as a snapshot). The first shot shows a corner of a building in a style common throughout Europe. It has no unique feature, the light is flat, there is nothing dramatic going on. It is actually quite sterile. It could be in Paris or Quebec or New Orleans or a theme shopping mall in the US. The last shot could have been taken of a farm field anywhere. Again, flat mid day light, nothing going on, no feature that is interesting. A nice shot but less interesting to me than just looking out my window. The shot of the Showbags stand is kind of interesting and the best of the lot. The middle shot is what every student takes to get educated about depth of field. Meh.
To the cell phone clickers I say keep on clicking and enjoy your photos!
I have to disagree here George (?). I think the shots of the building (that lighting is not flat, but brings out the texture of the building reasonably well) and the landscape (a good attempt at bringing interest to an otherwise humdrum subject) are quite good; at least some thought went into them. The Showbags shot I like least, mainly because of the row of human backs. I’m not sure what the intention of the shot was; bring out all the colourful detail? Come in closer, use more depth of field I’d say, but then you’d still have all those backs. The shot might have been more interesting with only the stallkeeper in it, or taken from within the stall with a 24 or 20 (camera raised above your head, pointing down, taking in both customers and the goods on sale).
And all of that could have been done with any camera allowing reasonable control over aperture, shutterspeed, ISO and focal length, without any pretense to superiority.
When I write a post for Steve’s blog -or indeed any other-I do so in the expectation that lots of people are going to disagree with me-as they are entitled to-and that quite a few are going to put the proverbial boot in and be quite nasty .So none of your comment rankles with me in any way-it’s what I expected but I do think that you could have spelt my name correctly.
John, this may be difficult to grasp, but your name isn’t in my comment. I was commenting on GSutton’s (George’s) comment, who commented on your photographs. As you may have noticed before you misread your own name, I view them in a rather more favourable light (not flat light then) than George.
Mike, my apologies.As a reasonable man would have appreciated I had intended to reply to George’s post above yours but as I was typing on an iPad and the reply buttons were very close I inadvertantly attached my reply to your post.
Aaah c’mon John. If we didn’t shoot a blizzard of photographs, we’d have nothing to try and convince ourselves with that what we were doing was saleable 😉
I understand your point and I admire your courage as I believe you knew the kind of reactions your post would have triggered.
However, your text makes me think of those tourists who travel to places like Varanasi, Venice, Kenya, Thailand and complain about the quantity of tourists they are actually part of. They are more or less convinced that these places should be kept for people like them, true subtle connoisseurs.
I am certain you did not mean it that way, but your tone is pedantic and it doesn’t help you bring your point across.
Ernesto , thanks for your comment.I did in fact originally do a straight version of the story but it made very dull reading indeed so I changed the tone of voice and put my tongue firmly in my cheek and embellished it.Fortunately some seem have appreciated that it was written tongue in cheek and many appear to agree with the underlying proposition.As for the rest and their nasty comments-some quite unpleasant -they are nothing less than I expected.They appear not to understand that without contributors-lovable or loathable- Steve’s blog would not exist and that those of us who do contribute with opinion pieces have by definition very thick skins.
Yikes! What a debate this has opened up! I’m turned off by the negativity, though — I couldn’t bring myself to read much.
I will argue that these spiffy digital tools aren’t _compelling_ anyone to behave in any particular way with them.
The mindset that wants to capture all possible images for 360 degrees around, 24/7, is already there, before the modern camera comes along to cheaply enable it.
The neurosis behind spray-and-pray is the same one that causes us, in modern society, to be perpetually looking to maximize our own interests — constantly and without cease.
We post-moderns aren’t exactly great at pressing Pause on our life-long personal gain campaign, and living each moment fully, are we?
I’m saying that the behaviour John is condemning is a sociological and psychological one. Today’s photo gear is merely a cog in a much bigger mechanism.
On another planet?
Mike ,when I wrote this story whilst I was trying to ask a serious question I wrote it with my tongue firmly in my cheek and indeed I went out of my way to embellish it to provoke comment and debate.I should add that the original ‘straight’ version of the story was very dull reading and I don’t think that Steve would have published it .Some respondents seem to have noticed that it was written tongue in cheek as indeed were most of my responses to comments.You obviously have not and have resorted to nasty name calling.Which is a pity because without contributors-whether you like or loath their posts-Steve’s website would make very thin reading.So may I suggest that as an act of contrition you consider writing an engaging story -with photos of course-for Steve’s blog.I am sure you will find it a lot harder than being nasty behind an anonymous name.
Well John, “solipsist” isn’t exactly nasty, it’s a very comfortable way of life. To some. No nastiness intended. I (and not only me) felt the reference to Leica to be “arrogant” and “aloof”, but possibly I missed how far your tongue was up your cheek.
The complaining about how the masses approach their photography didn’t seem tongue-in-cheek at all, and was what caught the attention of many, me included.
You have noted I commented – in earnest – on your images as well. I try to be reasonable and fair 😉
“On a recent trip to France I saw some magnificent panoramas near the Pyrenees . I just stood and savoured them when It would have been so easy to try to photograph them.My memories are suffice.”
It’s a little tough framing those and hanging them on a wall. Let alone sharing them with others.
Too magnificent to photograph? Hmmm….
I agree partially. It depends on how you take photos. I have experienced that taking my camera with me with the purpose of taking photos makes me take tours and see things I wouldn’t do normally. I get up early before the town wakes up and see fishermen standing by the beach. I look intensely on the objects to shoot with much more intensity than the casual tourist. One should take photography more seriously and use it constructively.
I do facepalm every time i see somebody making photos with their ipads… It’s so ridiculous… I’ve seen only one justified use of ipad as a camera – guy was documenting a concert, so he was doing live blog, with photos on his website. Other than that… Just totally ridiculous…
Some people like taking pictures with an iPad because it has a giant multi-touch EVF camera and camcorder. After the geo-tagged shot is taken it is automatically sent to all their “iStuff” via the cloud, backup up to iPhoto, and they can “insta” share it with friends or post it to their Facebook wall. I have never used an iPad as a camera, but they are not being ridiculous at all, just expressing their freedom to use the best camera for them.
I can’t help picturing a tour bus just out of shot, full of disgruntled tourists waiting for you to finish yet another unscheduled emergency toilet stop as you carefully compose a shot of another deserted country road before shaking yourself off and returning to your seat safe in the knowledge that you and your Leica X1 have nailed another ‘off piste’ panorama! Classic.
You have to admire John S for generating so many humorous comments; I like this one as I can visualize the scene vividly!
I can’t for the life of me imagine why someone would let his holiday experience be ruined by other people taking iPhone pictures. There must be a philosophical argument lurking there somewhere…
I can relate to your experience. I wrote a piece about my attempt to see the Mona Lisa a few years ago. I felt like I was caught in a swarm of paparazzi!
Like the article about the Mona Lisa.
Be careful here though, there are some people here who are not satisfied if every art gallery and museum is not filled to the brink with thousands of bewildered individuals hoping to use their camera/phone but unable to understand why they are there in the first place….
This whole topic is amazing to me. I cannot believe that the length of time spent for composing a photograph has anything to do with the finished product. You might as well say that you are not really enjoying algebra if you factor a binomial in 23 seconds! That’s algebraic blasphemy! One should only factor an expression in minutes, not seconds. The shot above with the orange/red flower, did you take ten minutes to compose that? Or just three seconds? I could compose that in maybe four or five seconds. The outcome would be the same. The snobbery that I see (or read) here is amazing — that’s what comes to mind, or maybe fantastic. For instance, the famous photograph of that poor girl running after being burned by napalm, I beleive the man behind the camera was Nick Ut, either way, did he stand there and take 10 minutes to compose, or maybe he was ‘feverishly’ taking pictures. I bet the latter. Give us all a break. Take your photos slow if you want, use a Leica if you want, use a Lego camera if you want, who cares? Not every one can afford an iPhone and a Leica. For some, iPhone is the only camera they own. It’s not your business. And the whole film vs. digital debate — who cares. 99 percent of all the pictures wind up on the internet and are then restricted to a finite number of digital bits. There are only so many shades of gray that can be displayed digitally, from white to black, there are only a fixed number of bits to make that happen. When you scan film, it is now digital, so what. Just enjoy the technolgy, the good cameras, the bad cameras, the expensive cameras, the cheap cameras! That is what this site is about — exploring photography — not bashing people for taking TOO MANY PHOTOS!!
A year ago I went to the dome in Cologne. The large window by German contemporary artist Gerhard Richter is one of the most striking additions to the dome. I stood at the center of the church and looked at it for a long time. During that period countless people ran by with iPads and video filiming their walk through the dome. They were so focused on their screens and the straight pass through that they didn’t even see this massive window, which stands out because of its modern, digital look in this old gothic cathedral. I bet without being distracted by filming they would have seen it. think that for many people being able to say and show that they have been at a special place is more important to them than actually figuring out what is special about that place.
It has always been like this. 20 years ago I sat for hours on the edge of the Grand Canyon taking it in and in that time I witnessed countless people walk up and take a picture of a family member using the Canyon as a backdrop. Some people are just sensitive to “seeing” and experiencing and others are not. I have a feeling that the non sensitives outnumber us.
So much presumption. The commentary starts with these pearls of wisdom: “photography is ruining the travel experience for many travelers”, “he had a neurological disorder”, “he was taking photos for the sake of taking photos.”
Can we please not presume to know what others think, want, or intend without actually asking them? Perhaps this post has many important insights to share, but for me they are lost without apparent objectivity or compassion.
Yeah, I hate the fact that the ball point pen ruined the quill experience. All those idiots missing out on having to dip a feather into an ink well. Horrible!
Yeah, Just think of all those idiots who have taken 3000 pictures on their iPhone then accidently dropped it down the loo. Horrible!
No offense. It seems like John Shingelton is a stuck up narrow-minded guy. He seems to be shoving his point up into everyone and trying to convince us all that his way is the “right way”.
To each his own. If you choose to shoot sparingly then respect other people’s choice of shooting everything.
ROFL means Rolling On Floor Laughing. It’s not insulting at all. If you weren’t as stuck up as you are, you would’ve had sense to Google it.
John said at the outset it was his OP view only.
I think he was quite polite, something you appear unwilling to do saying he is ‘stuck-up’
Shame on you
Ian, I was not referring to his article. Rather, referring to his responses to other comments which tend to criticize his point. He believes strongly that people are “losing out” because they take pictures rather than appreciate things right in front of them.
Clearly he has strong opinions about shooting sparingly, unwilling to change his ways. And because of this, in my opinion, he’s “stuck up narrow-minded”.
And I say back at you, Shame on you for not reading his responses and solely basing your response on what I’ve written. Next time read the entire article including responses.
I have read all the posts to this OP. It seems some of us agree with him and others do not. That is what is interesting.
Then there are many who get quiet upset because someone has tabled an interesting point for discussion. For some in the latter group it seems you just protest very loudly, perhaps call him a few names – seems like behaviour of small children in the playground.
There is no need to go around labelling people just because you don’t share their opinions.
Very good write-up. Much less impressive photos.
You guys and gals have me fits of laughter, the only time I care what someone else is using is when it’s a total tit using a iPad held at arms length not looking where he/she is going and crashing about like a dying bumble bee! Other than that let the masses snap away with their smart phones it just a shame they are not as smart as their device’s but it’s their choice. I will keep to one side with my film camera most of the time, taking a few select pictures, not necessarily any better but just less in number and sometimes less can be more!
When I travel I usually set aside a part of the day for a photo walk by myself. This way I can just concentrate on photography and not be bugging my travel companions. The rest of the day I explore and enjoy my surroundings .
I went to India in 1999 for three weeks and took an olympus stylus epic and shot maybe 6 rolls of film.
I went to the local park yesterday with my kids for 90 minutes and took 200 photos on my Ricoh GR.
We were lucky to spend three months last October in Sourthern India. My good wife could not believe when one day I decided to leave my D200 (17-55AF-S) on the coach whilst visiting a vegetable market.
It was only later on did I mention to others the old man selling brightly coloured dyes. Everyone else had missed this as they were seemingly so busy taking each others pictures…
Sometimes less is more. I think most of us would accept that it is personal memories we treasure more than anything else on holiday etc
Thanks for your comments and your “considered X1 photos” – I still can’t decide to tear myself away from (modest) zooms and if i did whether to go superwide or 35mm or 50mm.
But the problem you point to was already around before digital. You may know the story of the two tourists with their guide-book in St Mark’s Venice (I won’t mention their nationality!) where one of them says : “You look, I’ll read – that way we’ll get through quicker.” !!!
I don’t entirely agree with the viewpoint. I bet over the year when your memory is fading, it would be nice if you have a picture of the Olympic flame to remember by. As well as pictures of the loved ones smiling at certain locations, or better a video of the loved ones when they are young and beautiful.
I am against taking low quality pictures indiscriminately. But when you are a witness of a special moment, you would want to record it and that’s what it means being a photographer. It is a criminal having a camera and not doing so.
Interesting article. I admit that as a casual amateur I often have an inner struggle when traveling as to how much to shoot and how much to sit back and enjoy the moment. On the one hand, I do want to take interesting images but also document my travels, not only as a long term memory of the event that will no doubt fade over time, but also so I can visuallyshare my experience with friends and family. On the other hand, you make a valid point that much is lost from the experience if one sees things only through a viewfinder.
My personal rule now (which I sometimes forget) is to slow down, look first and shoot later. Sometimes I will walk through an exhibit or museum once without taking photos and go back through a second time only to take a few pictures of things I found of most interest. I have also gone back to a place of interest at a later time when possible to take a photo so that the first visit is not tarnished by worrying about photos and the photography experience is not rushed. Of course, this is not always possible, but helpful when it is. As I will be taking a vacation very soon I will be keeping this all in mind.
Yeah, I hate the fact that the ball point pen ruined the my quill experience. All those idiots missing out on having to dip a feather into an ink well. Horrible!
As is abundantly demonstrated on this blog, it is very difficult to take images (on holiday or elswhere) that are more interesting than family snaps or the average postcard. Some are no more than that, some are mere demonstration pics (look at what wonderful camera/lens I’ve got), some, a few, really draw the eye.
It was like that in the film age, it’s no different now. There’s no real harm in making run-off-the-mill images, whatever the equipment used.
Oh wait, it’s different for Leica users, that goes without saying (I wonder though whether that also goes for Users of Leica branded Panasonic clones. But I guess – hope – the “wow” factor and the “glow” come with the price hike).
Let’s turn our attention to really interesting images.
Miked700 on Flickr.
P.s.: I’ve always found it more productive to concentrate on my own photography (enough challenges there) than to focuson what other people are doing. But that’s just me of course.
Btw; in flagrant breach of an earlier promise-to-self to do only digital for a while, I’ve regressed to 400Tx and my compact F’s (FM2n, FE2, FM3A) for a while. Maybe the RTS, the F2AS and the F3HP will see some use to. All with appropriate primes of course.
Isn’t using film frustrating? You make the shot (considered, but that goes without saying), you want to know how it turned out, maybe take another three or four just to be sure, but you can’t see what you’ve done!
You’ve made the most sense of everyone I’ve read yet.And that’s coming from a Leica shooter.
Thanks Mark! 😉
I agree with most of what has been said, mostly. I’ve been finding myself taking fewer pictures, though it could be because I’m depressed and uninspired. Worrying about being a photographer does change your experience, usually from being a participant to being an observer. Sometimes that’s good; sometimes not. I do notice that my daughter, grown up entirely in the digital age, snaps away compulsively much to my annoyance, but when we get home and put together a book of our travels (which is a great thing to do, btw) she often has several great pictures of small or common things and people doing fun things I never would have photographed. Sometimes an eager, hungry eye finds things the careful person overlooks. Digital facilitates this. Of course with the great expansion in speed and capacity of digital comes a lot of junk. Like all new technology, we need to figure out a way to psychically, and perhaps spiritually, adjust and accommodate.
I for one found that entering the world of digital photography completely opened my eyes to everything that was happening around me. Maybe it’s because I’m still in my young adult age but originally, I not nearly appreciated half the wondrous things going around me before I invested in some micro 4/3 gear. Majestic landscapes, wondrous architecture, secluded alleyways became much more than a fleeting moment. I could capture them and invigorate an artistic view of the world within me. I could set beautiful images as my background, i could post them on fb, i could store them on my phone and every time i would see them pop up on my screen, i’d be able to reminisce and think about how awesome it was being there.
It’s one of the problems with digital and smartphones…marketing has convinced people that they are photographers, and that they must record every second of their life (or their cat’s life, but lets not open that particular pandoras box). Most of the images people take are kept on the card or phone memory for a while, then they need the space and end up deleting them…people don’t even keep what they shoot anymore.
Last year somebody said to me “Why do we need photographers when we’ve all got instagram ?”…it was one of the sadest things I’ve heard. I know how to write, but that doesn’t make me a writer…for some reason people think clicking a button called “Valencia” turns them into Helmut Newton or C.S. Bull…it really doesn’t.
Absolutely! Isn’t it ironic that the more pictures shot and shared online, the less actual photographs we have? And it has NOTHING (ABSOLUTELY NOTHING) to do with the equipment one uses. Be it a $8K Leica body and $11K Leica lens, or a $24.99 disposable camera at the local drugstore. I’ve probably seen more crappy pictures taken with $20K Leica kits than with the cheap-o cameras b/c the dude holding the Leica has convinced himself that $20K bought him not only kit but the eye of an artist. It’s obvious that it is advantageous to camera mfgs. to convince us to buy more kit, upgrade, etc. b/c that will make better pictures, but in the end, for ME, it’s about the learning process — about making pictures, enjoying the present and capturing a moment that is important to you, the photographer, and developing your creativity by SEEING the works of those that came before you. That’s the fun of it all, regardless if you use Instagram or Leica.
@ Harve.! You criticize people for taking photos, because they are not C.S. Bull. You mention you can write but you are not a writer, and yet you write. Ironic.
I think you misunderstood…I can write as in I know how to “read and write”, but that doesn’t make me a writer, as in a author. I wasn’t criticising anyone for not being as good as C.S. Bull, but for being under the illusion that all it took was a filter in an app.
It’s not irony.
What exactly makes you think you can write?
Its a moment in history that’s all. I remember when everyone walked around with “Walkmans” listening to music – same accusations about missing out on life were levelled then. If a person choses to use a camera in public then that is a choice for them, perhaps they will enjoy the “experience” even more by doing so… Anyone ever had sex on drugs? Can be fantastic.
Well, John, what are you going to do about it?! It’s not good enough!! There should be a law! (No, I’m sure you’re not thinking that.))
But I won’t be losing any sleep; lots of people spend their entire lives doing weird things; I saw a young woman walk into the museum in Florence where David is exhibited, she never removed her video camera from her eye for her entire visit, and I don’t exaggerate – it was an utterly astonishing performance. I was fascinated (yeah, David was sort of OK..)) and couldn’t believe it.
Let ’em go, they think they’re having fun, and let’s face it, if they didn’t have the p&s they’d hardly be the type engaged in earnest research or appreciation of the cathedral or museum.
A friend took some students to Florence; after one day a few were moaning, “I’m bored”. Probably couldn’t wait to get back to some shopping centre and ferret out cheap junk.
The culture of selfies, blown out flash shots, and “proof” shots – no, not those, the “I was there” sort I mean, are what gives ’em lots of joy and who’s to knock that?
AMEN AMEN AMEN. Especially about the museums. I live and work in New York City and frequent museums often. The amount of people at say the Met on any given day snapping pictures of exhibits is immense, and I do often wonder if they aren’t better off at home on the Internet seeing these masterpieces online. When my travels take me to Paris, I loathe to even go to the Louvre anymore. It’s awful and I am all but certain it will get worse as digital cameras in smart phones get better and better. It’s not an elitist comment, as some here have contended — in fact, it’s a measure of civility and consideration for others. I’d also like to see the exhibit/thing without the urgent feeling that I am in the way of someone’s picture — on more than a few occasions, I’ve been asked to move. Take the bull statute near Wall St., where I work, at lunch … oh dear God! People are quite literally hanging off that statute snapping pictures (I’ve worked here for the greater part of 8-yrs. and I have yet to take a single picture of that bull statute). When I am standing in front of an interesting museum exhibit or something of architectural or historical significance, I like to take notes, consider what it is I am seeing live, and my Leica is securely hanging around my shoulder — but UNUSED (mostly).
Leica has slowed the way I see and (if necessary) photograph. When I do photograph, I put my eye to my OVF and let the world pass through my sight, as if watching a movie, until that time I decide to freeze a single frame in time. I’ve gone even one step further and started using Leica film cameras — 36 exposures, the cost of film, and its development costs … makes the process even more deliberate, more carefully considered. Photography is once again what photography was to my grandpa and my dad, when they made pictures of us as children — a singular moment in time that inspires wonder and amusement.
I agree with your observations. I visited the Natural History Museum here in London recently and the huge hall exhibiting minerals and rocks is amazing. However, I saw people almost runninng between the display cases to ‘capture’ as much as possible. I suspect not one of them could actually remember anything from the exhibition an hour later.
Perhaps with the likes of Nikon D800 having so many pixels the actual RAW file will be so big that it will limit the number of pictures per memory card or, at least, require a new computer to handle the file sizes every other year or so.
Cruise ships, particularly the huge ones which dump thousands of people at a city, are a much bigger problem than photography at popular tourist spots, places like Venice are being loved to death.
The number of photos being snapped doesn’t bother me, it’s the lack of photos being printed as snapshots that I believe is the larger concern. People record the moment only to leave it on their phone or hard drive. I think this is a mistake. When they want to look back at the moment it will be gone. I mean looking back in 10-15 years. Even those Kodak prints that are yellowing somewhere in a box have significance from a family’s historical perspective. With the advent of so many “digital prints” many of those moments will be lost to different hard drives, new means of storage etc.
When we visit somewhere here or on holiday we both take pictures I then do the editing down and any tweaking and then get a Photobook made up. Usually costs c£100 and pictures are all printed to high standard.
I have backed up many years of travels overseas on to CDROM or DVD but as with floppy discs who knows what storage media will be in use in 10 years time.
We still have a big tin box with holiday prints/snaps made by my Grandmother at Blackpool in the late 1940’s they are over 60 years old and the quality is much much better than one might expect for the time. Somehow I don’t see flickr, facebook etc being here in 10 years (5 at the outset) let alone 60!!
Digital photoframes are good for now as well. Long term nothing beats paper.
I used to live in Newbury from 1979-1982. UK is a great place and has a phenomenal photographic tradition. Why I even got my Associateship at the RPS while there. Great country!
I am on the fence on this one.
Reality for me is that due to lack of work life balance, which is my fault, my vacation time are usually shorter. Thus I try to cover as much as I can. When I was in Europe I knew I can only afford the trip once in my lifetime. Thus a digital camera did help me to capture things I want to remember and when I have time at home I go through them, good pictures and the boring dull ones too, hoping to see things I did not see when I was there. That’s point No. 1.
Point 2 is, also my fault, that I have 3 kids with me yes it’s also my fault I can’t/won’t leave them at home. So holding 1 kid in my hand and 1 kid on my back in those baby carrier thing and never mind the bags etc. all I have is almost one free hand and I find it almost impossible to take my time to compose and look for great back lightings, leading lines etc. All I can muster is to follow the rule of 3rd to try to get at least a picture I can be happy with. So all I can do is usually snap at things/places/people I think are interesting to recapture the memories which years later I can review again and relive the moments since I can’t remember every place/moment or people I met on my holidays as I mentioned before it’s hard to travel light or free and easy without rushing and ensuring safety of your fellow travellers.
So those are 2 things that makes me a ‘snapper’, not in the fishy way.
However here lies my predicament and I hope to hear your views on it. I too am bored of my own 70% average pictures, 20% below average/out of focus pictures. But I have to keep them for when I want to to remember these treasured moments or show my kids I brought them to all these places. I don’t really share with friends or family unless they asked for it. But I do post it up on Flikr or FB in case computers and hardisk become obsolete someday, I hope cloud storage will still be there.
With the 70% average or mediocre photos, it’s clear what I should do with them, i.e. just keep them for my own viewing and not bore people.
Question 1: what do people do with say that 5% of the images that they deem great? With say 10,000 photos taken since digital cameras came out, that could mean 500 good ones, over time that can be quite a bit that might never be seen by anyone.
Question 2: What and how do you determine what is good to you is also interesting to others? Do we just keep uploading and share on FB/Flikr/500px etc? You are only encourage to improve and do better when people take notice and rate it/like your images, right?.
Question 3: So is it OK to just post all/or most of your photos from your travel so that you can learn which ones are most noticeable and that might help you improve?
I would say the curse is Apple. It´s Apples fault everyone take out their iphones and ipads and look ridiculous while taken pictures and filming.
John …..couldn’t agree more ..it’s as though every moment has to be recorded … when are they going to look at all these photos and videos ???.. I use my recently acquired digital camera (x100) as though it had expensive film in it …..much more relaxing.
and think of all the computer storage space that these useless pics take up. They consume energy and harm the environment….
Valid point. We may think oh it is digital and so no harmful chemicals etc but if images are on the net or ‘cloud’ it means they are on a server somewhere and with the amount of server capacity rapidly increasing that means a corresponding increase in electricity consumption. How that power is produced determines the environmental impact but also the impact of the manufacturing and building process that go into creating power stations and the servers and the buildings that house them are all part of out increasingly large carbon, chemical and waste footprint.
part of “our” not “out”
…and the diseases were better in the old days too: Bubonic plague, cholera, tuberculosis (at least that is returning). And no modern medicines available back then either. When you contracted something you died. Or at least had something amputated. Or would have, if you could afford it. Because when I was a young man I got up 24 hours before I went to ground. Ground, not bed. We could not afford a bed. Or a house. We could not even afford ground, so usually we hovered. Until air taxes were introduced of course. Nor could we afford a camera. Whenever we wanted a picture taken we committed a crime and pleaded to get a copy of the mug shot. Of course most of my family was sent to Australia instead. Swimming. They could not afford a bunk on HMS ships. Young people today they just go to the beach and tan – maybe take a dip or two. And snap away with their cameras that are not even Leicas! That is not swimming! That is not photography! If you have not floated from Europe to Australia on your back, you do not know water at all, do you? Not that youth are afraid of water. Most of them shower EVERY day. Some even twice! What a waste of water.
There is only one constant in life – old men always find young people simpletons. There are exceptions. In old men, of course. Youngsters will always be appalling – their youth, their health, their enjoyment, their ability to experience in ways we old farts never thought possible. The magic of their creative powers even without the newest, most expensive gear. How dare they! And they never call. Or visit. And they smell nice.
I am one of the exceptions. I am very old – I was born in a totally different millennium – and I find the young people marvellous and the sheer talent among digital camera users (young and old and in between) stunning. Of course I tend to focus on enjoying my vacations and travels instead of obsessing about other people’s appalling behaviour as long as they are not actually doing anything illegal. I wonder if I will be allowed into the old people’s home when I qualify age wise? Well, enough said. Back to enjoying Sarah Silverman’s “You’re gonna die soon”.
Lighten up, mate. Or not.
What a perfectly written and timed article!
I am off to travel Europe two weeks today and was actually thinking the same thing. I want to see all these amazing places in person and not on my iPhone screen (I can do that now with a quick google search).
I went to a concert last month (Dead Can Dance) and I was getting rather annoyed with seeing Lisa Gerrard via the screen on the Galaxy Note thingy in front of me… I had to move in order to actually see the concert we had all paid £40 to ‘see’.
Digital is ruining the way people see the world and also the amount we share is just getting beyond a joke. I alway say to my other half when seeing people going mad taking photos “I would hate to be the person they show the photos too”. For the simple reason there is only so many angles you view the same photo before wanting to drink bleach in order to make this ordeal go away.
I agree with you John.
I think people are devaluing their experience, in fact are preventing themselves having an experience because they are removing themselves from the experience via their device. There is no way someone can really be immersed in the experience if they are paying so much attention to their gadget. Sure I would take a snap of the Pope too (if I were inclined to attend) but would not relentlessly keep snapping.
I see people walking in nature looking at their phone and wonder what they are getting out of being there. I make an effort to enjoy an event, to pay attention to it, to be there for it, even when I am there with the aim of photographing it. At some events I see people video the whole thing. Might as well watch it on TV, the coverage will be better.
The ever increasing daily bombardment with images too may be desensitising us to what is special in our own lives. I was thinking about this the other night as I was appreciating a small Van Gogh print on the wall which was a similar print I had on my wall as a teenager. I like this continuity of an image through my life. It gives it a richer meaning and a sense of belonging, a connection to time and place. It tells me something about myself.
Is all this snapping people do an attempt to connect and belong? I am sure social media is used to fulfil that role. I think we are losing sight of what is really nourishing – community, connection with nature and feeling valued – feeling you are making a valuable contribution. There is no doubt in my mind that Western society has over promoted the culture of individualism (via Capitalism and Consumerism) as a way to achieve personal fulfilment. We have been embraced this as a new religion and it is taking us away from our true selves, our happy, contented, simpler selves.
Thankyou for you posting.
Should read “We have embraced this…”
not “We have been embraced this…”
Pity there is no provision to edit our posts at least once within say 24hrs.
For every crazed snapper there is someone who might become passionate about photography tomorrow, next year, or in 5 years. I should know, I was a crazed snapper with film back in the day. Personally I think digital photography is great and the content of this post jars with me. It reads like a daily mail reaction to those “crazy kids of today” and what they get up to.
The world changes, and people see and experience it in different ways. Isn’t that great?
Could not agree more…..went to concerts a lot in the zips and first you could see the artist playing with your eyes….now you can only watch him or her on the iPhone display of the bloke next to you or even worse in front of you. The best concert I went to was that of Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions. She announced bluntly that if a single photo was taken she would stop the show, and Hope Sandoval dyehards stressed that she was just making a factual statement not a thread. No photos were taken that night and the whole audience listened to the brilliant music. I don’t hate digicams but I sure as hell hate cameraphones, so much in fact that I stopped owning a cellphone alltogether.
I am convinced that people on bus tours are ruining the travel experience for many travellers.
Goethe once said; “nicht ärgern, nur wundern”
In my experience its not the camera technology that makes us snapshot-crazy. Rather its the craze of sharing experiences that is “ruining travel photography”. People I know that take pictures incessantly are doing it, it seems, because they feel an experience is less of an experience if it does not get shared, viewed and commented on in some form or another. The photographic aspects of an image play no role in it.
Nothing new here. Some people never go to see movies alone. Or go anywhere alone. Now technology makes it possible to avoid the ‘alone’ everywhere.
Shooting analog I sometimes feel like I’m the arrogant and selfish one. I take a picture and I am immediately asked to show it. Sorry, can’t cause… and days later I am emailed about “the photos you took”… Sorry, you’ll see them in 3 months if ever… But then again I love it. Its my photography, my subjectivity, my mind. Everything else I can share.
Very well said, Mikael. This is an interesting point as well – combatting “alone-ness”, or at least attempting to – by sharing pictures excessively. I never considered that thought before. Intriguing…
Both of you make interesting points here. My Niece seems to be photographing everything she does, she even embarrassed us all by suddely leaping up on her chair in a restaurant to video our meals being brought to the table.
Elderly couple sitting next to us would hardly have been more shocked at such behaviour if she had taken her clothes off!
We all enjoy photography, but the single minded pursuit of ones own pictures should not be at the expense of others. My sister in law just shrugged at the suggestion there should be table manners.
I must be getting old but why should we all have to put up with this ‘over-entitled, whatever, my rights’ attitude from just about anybody under 25? Nobody would have complained about a couple of simple family pictures taken during what was clearly a special occasion.
This post comes off as half “back when I was young and I had to walk four miles in the snow with bare feet…” and “Ah, these rubes and their tiny-sensor smartphones are stealing the attention away from me and my Leica and many gilded certificates of photographic qualifications.”
Join the 21st century and stop taking yourself so seriously. It’s more boring than the photos you illustrated this post with.
John wrote an interesting OP. Steve has done a tremendous job with this site and many photographers have posted to it or like John posed a question for discussion. If all you want to do is berate him for expressing an opinion then perhaps this is not the site for you.
One of the interesting themes here is the idea that street/travel photography can actually be easier with a smaller simpler camera than say Nikon D4. Pre-digital this was for many exemplified by a Leica M6 with 35mm lens. Simple.
Today there are lots of interesting new cameras to consider e.g. Nikon V1/2.
John Shingleton has said nothing about harking back to 20th century, and I for one am pleased he is expressing something serious and that there are plenty here who share some/all/none of his views. That is what an OP is..
What is wrong with serious discussion, open minds and genuine debate?
There is nothing more tedious than someone labelling somone else as boring just because it does’nt fit in with their particular world view. This site is never boring as it is read by photographers and serious hobbyists, if you want boring then check out Twitter or Instagram…
Thanks Ian .Your constructive comment is very much appreciated.As you say all I did was write an opinion piece hoping to generate some genuine debate.Whilst I do have a very thick skin responses such as Bryan’s do make me wonder why I bothered…..
Amazing….pictures. Such inspirational Blog towards Photography
An interesting polemic, but it isn’t so much digital’s fault and the users who snap away.
I use digital, but I use it more like film. I know from film days that when you slow down and look and wait and think that you get better images.
Now I admit most people don’t think like that, but that is the democratisation of photography. It is no longer for the elites.
I think many of us do feel that we might once upon a time have spent a bit more time taking one or two pictures with film, but now given the capacity of storage cards etc it is possible to move around a bit more or take similar shots at slightly different focal lengths.
I’m guilty as charged, moreover I might once have spent more time concentrating on focus and exposure but now let the camera do a lot of this stuff and consequently I might end up with 10-20 shots of say an interesting shop front when in the past I would have just taken one or two.
My overall impression in terms of John Shingleton’s OP was that it just seems a shame to miss out on experiencing something interesting because it is now so EASY and INEXPENSIVE to takes lots and lots of pictures instead.
I’m not so sure I agree with you totally on the ‘democratisation’ of photography, even though I have been interested in this hobby for more than 30 years I never considered it was ‘for the elites’ granted a Nikon F2AS was never cheap when new but a box brownie was.
A friend was recently having a dig at me for my total ambivalence to Twitter, in particular and social media per se. He also suggested it was to do with the democratisation of media etc. As far I am concerned (my personal view only & I know I’m in a minority on this) Twitter is not the Daily Telegraph (here in UK) or Washington Post and Facebook is not BBC or Sky News.
I read somewhere recently that a paper, might have been New York Times, had sacked all its photographers now that everyone had smartphones. Madness. No doubt someone called swirley88 on twitter is their new leader writer… Just my penny’s worth!
Based on my own experience and observations I believe that the OP is correct. I’m really not sure why so many comments are defensive. OP, you’ve made me think and consider my own behavior – I appreciate this criticism if you will. Thank you.
I concur absolutely. Can’t understand why there are so many defensive remarks being made. Anyone would think the OP said over use of digital cameras will result in your exclusion from the building. Actually hasn’t one or 2 of the New York museums/galleries just done that?? I wonder why..
If phortography is not allowed then is it not the same as a musician stopping a piano performance because somebody is trying to film it so that it can be uploaded to Youtube?
Some of the art galleries in London have given up trying to stop people taking photos. Perhaps the debate is whether artists, musicians, actors etc have a right to object to photography/video. Everyone seems to think that the because someone has a camera they can use it as they wish.
The Electronic Eye piece at 15 above says it all.
Democratisation does not mean anybody can do anything they want any time they want to. It is also about obligation not just rights.
If you’re concerned with people “snapping all around you” you’re not really focusing on taking in the vista.
I don’t see how your decision to leave your camera in the bag is the only right decision. People learn by doing. It’s not ruining the experience. I’m sure you’ve snapped photos in many places where people around you probably thought you were ruining their experience just the same.
I share your thoughts. I know many people that have never printed their photos since they ditched film. Many of these people now take all their photos with a cell phone and upload to Facebook or just leave them on their phones. These are photos of family and such that they have trusted to the cloud and their phones. It is upsetting to think a whole generation could lose out so many memories when someone or something deletes all these prized photos. Then again maybe we are the weird ones? I’ve also met many people that could care less about the past (even their own) and only live for the present moment.
It is very sad to see people not living in the present. However, that’s none of your business. It’s not photography, its snapshots. You’re not making a valid argument because those people aren’t there to create beautifully crafted photographic works of art. You’re right in that it is ruining the experience, but digital isn’t ruining photography. I would say that they’re taking pictures just so they can remember it later. I did the same when I had a low quality point and shoot. If they choose to ruin their moment, so be it for them. If they choose to record it in a low quality medium, then it’s their choice.
But surely the point he is making it that its such a shame when an incredible experienced can be missed just so that a few video clips or pics can be made. Clearly it is the choice of the individual.
Perhaps cameras still/video should come with a little sticker that says the camera is not waterproof, the lens cap is inedible and over using the camera whilst at a significant event might rob you of important memories…
Over use of film is same as over use of digital, just costs more ££££…
Use the lens to capture everything in our sight. Technology, we suppose, serves us but we eventually serve technology. That’s a prophecy given by the Romantics over a hundred years ago. Wheels on the bus became an extension of our legs, computers our brain, and camera our eyes. Looking no longer satisfies our desire to know. To know our subjects digitally, capturing them with our camera, it completes our ownership of the subjects. Digital ownership equals to physical ownership. In a post-modern era, we control therefore we are. Minimising all possible risks, we consume organic food, sugarless lemon tea, caffeineless coffee, fatless cream, and alcholess beer. Cheap air tickets redefine travelling. Internet redefines human relationships and even sex. One day, walking on the street is a luxury and we will do everything in a cocoon. Use your camera now. It will become history.
You might be onto something here. Perhaps in the near future out consciousness will be sub-Plank cale fluctuations stored in some folm of holographic storage medium. We might be able to store the souls of 20 billion people on the tip of a needle…
Yours is actually the one comment here that I can agree with completely because it looks at the issue in a much broader context. I also like your thought of digitally capturing a subject equals ownership of that subject. However temporary and meaningless that ownership may be, I might add.
As to John’s piece, what fascinates me the most about this inflationary use of digital picture-taking is the bad picture quality of most of these images – blurry, underexposed, overexposed… While this can be its own art form, I’m tickled pink by the fact that we have tried for decades if not centuries to perfect cameras to take perfect pictures, and now all of a sudden people frankly don’t seem to care about that anymore and are content with whatever the camera phone produces. Maybe the purpose of taking pictures has indeed shifted from wanting something extraordinary to proof of having been there.
In any case a very interesting discussion.
I am confused by those leaving negative comments on this post. It is a valid point. I’m sure most of you have Facebook. I’m sure you have friends that post *pics* of EVERYTHING. They arent necessarily interesting pics, just pics. They are snapshots, with little or no value. It is a boring “I WAS HERE” photo.
I think where the OP’s point becomes even more obvious is with video. Have you ever been to a concert where people hold up their phones and take video of their favorite song? I am sure you have. Why? Instead of living in the moment and enjoying a live performance of their favorite song, they are more concerned with taking a low quality video, with terrible audio, that they will probably NEVER watch. What a waste of time, and more importantly a waste of what could have been a great experience.
Same thing when people meet celebrities and all they want is an autograph or a picture. How about trying to talk to them and actually relate to them as a person? What is the point of the picture or autograph? Just so you can prove to your friends that you “met” this person? Lame. It really seems like those of you with negative comments on this post are just arguing for the sake of argument.
Or maybe you should just let people decide for themselves what pictures they want to take and not let it bother you so much.
Your post is pretty “do as I say say, not what I do”. When you take pictures “sparingly” (how many shots a day is “sparingly” to you?) is fine, but if others do it with less skills and/or thought involved, or with a lesser-branded camera, that’s killing photography. So you bought a 2K also-digital camera to use it only when your brain quits being your camera, or when the atmosphere is encapsulable by a Leica, isn’t it?
Gimme a break.
Felipe you seem to have read an expanded version of my piece or else you are reading more into it than I wrote.It was written as a opinion piece-hopefully to prompt a friendly vigorous debate/discussion on a phenomenon of our time.At the end of the day if millions of people want to spent inordinate amounts of money to travel around the world to look at sights on a tiny LCD screen that really is their business although I do think that they are missing something.As you will see from my comments above whilst I do use a Leica I now deliberately sprinkle references to Leica through my writings to assist the pharmaceutical industry sell more blood pressure medication to those who see red when they see that five letter word.
I understood your thought, and I read it thoroughly. It’s not that I disagree with your point, but it’s the way you put it.
You seem to put yourself not at the side of the phenomenon and describe it, but above it and censoring it. That ain’t cool.
maybe you should shoot your camera a bit more though. those shots are not very inspiring and certainly don’t convey a sense of being there, since you imply that in those few moments you do use your camera, you shoot very thoughtfully. Perhaps more practice is in order?
SD cards should be made to hold 36 photos… only That will teach ’em 🙂
I actually like that idea… 36 Photos. “Constraints will make you awesome.”
I shot film for 25 years and being limited to 36 frames did make me think twice about taking that extra shot. Don’t miss the expense of film and processing but I do think film did bring more discipline to the hobby
Why not just get a memory card that’s smaller than 1gb? Just sayin’
Fair point, might just do that from time to time
I have 16GB on the D800; 900 images or something in raw. Useful when you’re on holiday, when I’m home I just clear the card after every shooting session. Usually no more than 20 shots in a day (I’m carefully omitting the 100+ session of my newborn daughters some weeks ago). It’s not a machinegun.
Haha, now that is quite easy. I know a few people who actually use low capacity older SD cards to do this. I might even start doing it myself. I was shooting my X-Pro1 on the weekend and noticed in the VF I had another 778 shots remaining …. it is crazy no doubt.
My “SD” called Neopan Acros holds only 12 😉
Never really bothered me all this sheer amount of snappers. When on hols abroad I take X-Pro with 18 and 35 together with Sigma DP2M. Lately I’ve been discovering beauties of square format and B&W film development at home. Sometimes I take M6 out. I guess the cost of film and its limitations (nr of frames per roll) force one to read more, learn more, think more, shoot less crap and shoot more keepers, it’s more rewarding.
@ Milo – bahahaha…. Right on!
The only reason I take my camera with me when I’m on vacation or traveling aboard is to capture what I saw. I don’t care if someone or a post card has a better picture because that’s not how it was presented to my eyes when I was there.
I praise the invent of digital photography. Today, most DSLR and mirrorless cameras can take great indoor photos without flash or tripod. For those of us vacationing on limited time and budget, we can now bring the art home and enjoy it on our computer or tablet at our own leisure. Not to mention the opportunity to show and motivate others to travel and visit these countries and museums for themselves.
If a museum would not allow photos taken, I prefer not to waste money or time on it as I’ll likely forget what I saw in a few years’ time anyway.
Blue Orca(what a strange name -do you get strange looks when you check into hotels?) you are already missing out on some great museums and I ‘m sure you’ll be missing out on a lot more in the future.
Let people do what they want. For many of us who love photography as an art form, we may perceive others are wasting time, quality and appreciation of photography. But cameras are a tool to capture images and that’s simply what most people use it for.
It’s like complaining why we all don’t appreciate cars, as most people use it as a tool to get from A to B. Sometimes we think too highly of ourselves and our hobbies…
I think we should let those travelers speak for themselves on the subject of whether their experience is being ruined. The author is being presumptuous in assuming that just because he doesn’t like seeing people photographing things with their cellphones that it’s “ruining” something for them. People have a choice. They can make decisions for themselves. If they want to always be photographing with their cellphones, tablets or whatever, so what? If you don’t like it, then don’t behave like they do. Do your own thing. Get over it.
This, though i agree it is obnoxious to see the glowing screens of smartphones inside of cinemas, i actually find this constant mass photography rather interesting and most of all; it makes these people happier to be able to capture their memories with greater ease.
I for one own an M9 with a delicate CCD sensor, I very carefully choose my pictures, but seeing someone else go mad with their iphone is no problem for anyone but those who choose to make it a problem.
“No camera – not even a Leica – could encapsulate that amazing atmosphere”
‘not even a Leica’
Apparently some people find Leica as a brand smug and elitist. Can’t imagine why….
I don’t know what ROFL means but I am sure that it is not polite.Anyway I deliberately sprinkled a few references to Leica into the text to get the Leica haters foaming at the mouth.Seems like it worked as usual.
Wow John, now I see where your combative and disdainful outlook comes from. You could easily google ROFL and see it’s not at all offensive. It stands for “Rolling On the Floor Laughing”
As a Leica owner I figured you’d be a little more knowledgeable than that…;-)
Frank, thanks for putting me straight on that.I do regard Googling things as the lazy way out but in this instance I should have followed your advice .
I do not intend to be “combative and disdainful” when I write these pieces for the Steve Huff blog and others.My intent is to generate some vigorous debate on interesting subjects.Nowadays there is rarely genuine debate – plenty of opinions and blandness and negativity but rarely a debate in the true meaning of the word.This particular post seems to have generated some serious and meaningful discussion .A few sillies but that’s life.I sense that the piece “combative and disdainful” though it may be in your opinion has struck a cord with quite a few people who have made some good points.
“I don’t know what ROFL means”
Well, YMMV but as far as I am concerned, LOL…
I don’t think it’s necessary to dismiss those who think the photographer is more important than the camera as “Leica-haters”.
When you say “no camera – not even a Leica”, you’re suggesting you are limited by your tools, when in fact you are limited by your vision. Others will see image opportunities even if they don’t have a Leica.
Smug superiority is always likely to derail interesting discussion.
I thought John S was suggesting his photographic merit was aggrandized by the (Leica) gear he uses. Which, of course, is a tragic misunderstanding. Don’t misunderstand me; enthusiasm for the gear you use helps you in many ways (I just sold a Contax S2 because I couln’t get along with it, as much as I wanted to), it just isn’t the dominant factor.
I completely agree. I shot film exclusively up until a few years ago and used it very sparingly, since my training was in medium and large format photography. I first noticed the behavior by digital picture takers (not really photographers) several years ago when I joined a camera club in my community. I was the only one shooting film. The digital users blindly shot hundreds (if not a thousand) pictures on an afternoon outing. I would usually shoot about five. They would show up several days later at the camera club meeting with an unedited chip full of pictures. And as they dutifully tried to show them all, there was not one that was well thought out. Needless to say I quit the camera club and continue to shoot just a few pictures at a time.
Really? With all the problems in the world, the way people take photos is even a blip.
Not everyone loves photography. Many people just like snapshots, even indiscriminate snapshots. Who cares? Leave them alone. Instead of feeling superior, how about having a little more chivalry to those around us?
Thanks for the article John. Very interesting. And nice pictures.
Your article reminds me a short text of Umberto Eco about the electronic eye.
Just in case you missed it, I put it here :
“AN EPIDEMIC OF ELECTRONIC EYE”
“Some time ago, I was giving a talk at the Spanish Academy in Rome — or, rather, trying to give a talk. I found myself distracted by a bright light shining in my eyes that made it difficult to read my notes — the light from a cellphone video camera that belonged to a woman in the audience. I reacted in a very resentful manner, remarking (as I usually do in the face of inconsiderate photographers) that, in keeping with the proper division of labour, when I am working they should stop working. The woman turned her camera off, but with an oppressed air about her, as though she had been subjected to a true outrage.
Just this summer in San Leo, as the Italian city was launching a wonderful initiative to honour the Montefeltro-area landscape that appears in Piero della Francesca’s early Renaissance paintings, three people were blinding me with their flashes, and I stopped to remind them of the rules of good manners. It should be noted that, at both of these events, the people who were recording me didn’t belong to professional camera crews and hadn’t been sent to cover the event; they were presumably educated people who came of their own free will to attend lectures that required some degree of knowledge. Nevertheless, they displayed all the symptoms of “electronic eye syndrome”: They appeared to have virtually no interest in what was being said; all they wanted, it seemed, was to record the event and perhaps post it on YouTube. They had given up on paying attention in the moment, choosing to record on their cellphones instead of watching with their own eyes.
This desire to be present with a mechanical eye instead of a brain seems to have mentally altered a significant contingent of otherwise civil people. The audience members snapping pictures and shooting video in Rome and San Leo probably left the events with a few images, but with no idea of what they had witnessed. (Such behaviour is, perhaps, justified when seeing a stripper — but not an academic talk.) And if, as I imagine, these individuals go through life photographing everything they see, they are forever condemned to forget today what they recorded yesterday.
On several occasions I’ve spoken of how I stopped taking photographs in 1960, after a tour of French cathedrals that I had photographed like a mad man. Upon returning home from the trip, I found myself in possession of a series of very mediocre photographs — and no real memories of what I had seen. I threw away the camera, and during my subsequent travels, I have only recorded what I saw in my mind. I have bought excellent postcards, more for others than for myself, for future remembrance.
Once, when I was 11 years old, I came upon an unusual commotion on a main thoroughfare. From a distance, I saw the aftermath of an accident: A truck had hit a cart that a farmer was driving, with his wife riding alongside him. The woman had been thrown to the ground. Her head had cracked open and she was lying in a pool of blood and brain matter. (I still recall with horror that, in that moment, it looked to me as if a strawberry cream cake had been spattered on the ground.) The woman’s husband held her tight, wailing in desperation. I didn’t get too close, for I was terrified: Not only was it the first time I had seen a brain spattered on the ground (and fortunately, it was also the last time) but it was the first time I had been in the presence of death. And sorrow, and desperation.
What would have happened if I had had a cellphone equipped with a video camera, just as every kid has today? Perhaps I would have recorded the scene, to show my friends that I had been there. And perhaps I would have posted my visual treasure on YouTube, to delight other devotees of schadenfreude. After that, who knows? If I had continued to record such misfortunes, I might have become utterly indifferent to the suffering of others.
Instead, I preserved everything in my memory. Seventy years later, the mental image of that woman continues to haunt me and, indeed, has taught me to empathise with others’ suffering rather than being indifferent to it. I don’t know if today’s youth will have the same opportunities I did to mature into adulthood — to say nothing of all the adults who, with their eyeballs glued to their cellphones, have already been lost forever.”
P.S. yeah, first post here. @Steve, I follow your site since years now and it’s always a great great pleasure to read your articles and the contributors photos and words. Very precious. Congrats to all & Thanks.
On the one hand I agree with John, but on the other hand, i gotta say.. most people are social animals, and their piers / and social circle is in todays world PART of the trip, and they are part of confirming the value of the trip by commenting on the images (however meaningless they may be) many of those images probably resemble static street corners or the backsides of carnival goers.. maybe even close up’s of flowers with fuzzy backgrounds. No? (FYI, generally I know John’s awesome images and love them, but I don’t think these particularly ones illustrate the point that well)
John that church shot is fantastic illuminated with 5.000 cellphones. in future story telling the crowd was showing their interest and excitement by voting with their phones. Yes indeed. forget clapping, flip open your phone so they know you like the show.
peers not piers (that is a wharf or bridge).
Or a name, Piers.
A perfect example of what’s wrong with the world today – people can’t mind their own business. People snapping photos left and right and using this camera or that – so what? It’s NONE of your business. Perhaps you’d enjoy your vacations more if you were worried about your vacation and not someone else’s.
I think you’re missing the point of his post. To sum up, he’s saying that people are missing things because they’re so busy doing something to fully take in the moment.
Yes, if people want to snap away like a machine gun that’s their choice. The other point he made was how things had changed over just a few years and showed photo’s to that end.
He was just making a point. Obviously you seemed to have missed it.
No one knows what anyone else is missing on their vacation. And just who is the photographic quantity judge? If i should take 12 photos, then i’m appropriately enjoying my surroundings and adequately snobbish. If I should take 1,200 photos then i’m just an idiot wasting my vacation! Seriously, don’t people have other things to worry about than who is taking ‘too many photos, feverishly’. That is the beauty of digital. You can bring back as many memories as you want without buying hundreds of dollars of film. You must live a blessed life to complain about digital photographers. Geeze…
Yes ! And then you can put all of your files on your hard disk, never review them again. And wonder where they disappeared 5 years after when you realize you forgot to back up them when you changed your computer for a new one and threw the old one away.
Sure if you take 2000 pics and never review them then it’s a waste of time, money etc. But if you’re a photographer then I see two schools – one the article describes – very much the film ethic; but the other is a photographer looking for a great shot. How do you think he/she finds that shot – by blindly shooting or by looking at the environment and taking it all in?
+1… Though I get Bob’s point, at the end of the day that is his opinion. Its 2013 for sure, things have changed and who are we to say what these people are taking in at such sites, they could very well be or totally contempt with what they are doing at these places. I assume they are there at their own expense and can’t fault them for what they choose to digest. Hard to say what they are missing…
Both shots look good to me though…
Not quite sure why people snapping around you should or would matter to you…. It’s your eye..vison and your photos that matter.
I visited Athens one time, and a young businessman had set up about a half-dozen backdrops of the various sites of the city. For a few bucks, you could get your portrait taken in front of an Acropolis photo, a Parthenon photo, etc… The pictures in his backdrops were all taken from handsome angles, at an attractive time of day.
At first, I thought it was deceptive and insincere. But I noticed that the people who got all their portraits from that one vendor enjoyed the tours much more than the people who fussed with their cameras all day long. (Also, their pictures came out pretty good.)
I remember when I got my first digital camera. My wife and I went on a trip through southern Utah and Arizona, and I was shooting just like you described above. Part of it was the intoxication of seeing that area of the country for the first time, but it was also a feeling of freedom from the expense and drudgery of film. Once I got home and started processing the 3000 or so images I had taken, I began to realize what was going on. That was 2004 – now I am much more selective about what to shoot, but I think this just happens naturally. I also think people will get tired of shooting everything in sight with their smart phones.
I too have been on many trips with others. I really do not care how they work as long as they work. At some point some “frantic” shooters will calm down and be more discerning. The more one shoots and looks at what they have shot, the greater the chances of them becoming better at visualizing and feeling about what they are shooting. Many studies have shown that the more one works the better one get at what one is doing. Maybe the digital phenomenon will ultimately create better photographers. The digital shooters will certainly become competition for us esthetes.
I agree 100%. I travel a lot and take a lot of photos, but like you I’m trying to be sparing and studious in what I photograph. I don’t own a smartphone and sold my D-SLR and lenses. As for posting on social media – forget it.
Take a moment and google the elements of design and colour theory. Spend just a moment studying it, before reading your next favorite camera blog and skimming through sharpness tests and comparing bokeh. Then go out and shoot using some of those basic principles; it’s not always just about the rule of thirds.
Hear, hear! Very well said, and illustrated with some really nice and individual travel photos! You haven’t mentioned the greatest menace of the early years of this decade, the iPad with rear camera, so that the view of three or four people behind is blocked rather than just one! As you say, hopefully when people realise that they will end up losing and/or never looking at their smartphone or tablet photos, or their friends hide them on Facebook, they might stop.
The second problem is, having such a myriad of photographs, the vast majority of people fail to even stop and take in a lovely image.
I suppose the same goes for most ‘art’ forms.
Remember the Youtube video of one of the worlds greatest violinist’s playing a rather expensive Strad’ violin in a subway entrance and virtually no one stopped to listen? Yet they pay a fortune to listen to him at a concert!!
I post a photograph on my Facebook page every day and I’m always surprised at what get’s the most likes. Often not the image that I consider more worthy!
It’s a funny old world.
I completely agree. I had the same thing happen to me and did not realize it until my wife pointed it out to me. One of my daughters dances and every year, I used to take photos of the recital. A two hour recital would generate about 3500-4000 pictures. Two years ago, the studio decided to have the recital on two nights instead of just one. So naturally, I took pictures the first night and when it came time to leave the house for the second night, my wife took the camera bag out of the car at the last minute. Needless to say, I was very angry at her but her response to me was “watch the show, don’t just take pictures. I want you to enjoy your daughter’s dancing”. I did not think that there was a difference but I was completely wrong. When you eye is trained on a specific point, you lose what is going on around you and the real magic in the recital was not my daughter’s moves but the entire dance company.
Since then, I generally only take photos during one of many photography trips that I plan out with my photography buddies or pictures of the kids as they are playing around. The last several family trips that we have gone on, I took so little pictures that a single memory card was enough. The rest of the time, I concentrated on enjoying the moment rather than documenting it.
Spot on with these comments. I was recently in the Slot Canyons near Page, AZ. I went there to photograph but it was so inspiring to see it for the first time I keep my camera in the bag a long period of time. I just wanted to enjoy it. However, I was getting run over by folks firing away with no thought of composition, light, or the people around them. An interesting experience.
Digital is destroying everything. No time to take in the moment. Only place where digital is best and cell phone’s rule is in moments wit e a child/grandchild. Even mirror less is cumbersome.
that last shot is lovely.
The problem is idiots who believe that just because you can do something you should without taking the time to think.
Digital photography when used in a considered, creative way is brilliant and offers so many possibilities and allows the user to develop their ability without the waste and expense of film.
“The problem is idiots who believe that just because you can do something you without taking the time to think.”
Just like me leaving that comment ——-my apologies for being a smug, judgmental idiot !
I stand by the part about digital photography .