Memory Cards and Touristic Brains
Living in the centre of Paris, – by excellence the city of street photography, and tourism -, you don’t take 2 steps in the street without seeing tourists taking pictures of everything. And by this I’m not talking about the Theory of Everything, the Holy Grail of modern physics. I’m talking about how people are no longer able to see with their own eyes, or even listening with their own ears.
People only believes in what they see in photographs or in what they read on Internet. No matter what, and no matter if they saw it in real, they need to confirm on Internet. If it’s not on Internet it doesn’t exist. As if they need a written or visual proof of the reality. As if they don’t even trust themselves.
The amount of people taking pictures with whatever they have to the exactly same things as a million other people… is insane. You don’t see anyone looking at Mona Lisa at Louvre with their own eyes: you see mobile phones and tablets taking pictures of it. You don’t look at homeless people in the street: you rather take pictures of them as a freak show, or you see them in pictures. In fact, most probably you follow a photographer who takes photographs of homeless people, but if you pass by a homeless you don’t look at. Or maybe you give them 50 cents in ex-change of taking a picture… to post on your instagram side by side with your last colourful meal.
The need of having a proof of what they see, makes internet insane. The instagrams with millions of pictures of the Louvre’s pyramid, or more recently the phenomena of the selfies in front of everything, as in “I’m cool: I was here”, to make a difference from the other millions of pictures of it. But in fact it only changes the ugly face in it, usually full of acne. Every single day I’m asked to take a picture of someone in front of the Notre Dame, with pocket cams, smart phones, tablets or even nice looking digital cam bought in a pack with cheap lenses to shoot in automatic mood.
Owning something that can reproduce something else in a visual way might be giving you the wrong sense of the self. You might feel that you’re a photographer, or even an artist just because you clicked, making the camera register the thing. It’s a question of raising the ego, I guess. Even if you can look the silliest person on earth taking pictures with the tablets. Which they use also as sun protector, so most times they end up taking pictures of the monument against the light. But who cares? The most important is that like millions of other people you have the proof that you’re there, posting it on internet.
My mind works in a different way. I like to feel. To smell. To see. To listen to the sounds of the city. To understand the culture. To observe. And to allow myself to live the moment that I’m in.
I lived in Tibet and Nepal, studying there, doing trekking, learning, walking around and growing up. I didn’t take photos there. I was very conscious on the purpose of my journey. I wanted to observe. And to keep it in my own mind, memory, subconscious, brain archives, or whatever you want to call. I came back overwhelmed by the intensity of the trip.
In my first trips to Africa, no matter if north, Morocco, or more to the south where I went as volunteer, I didn’t take any photos either. Or when I travelled through Europe for the first time in most of the cities. I wanted to feel. And to understand by observing.
I only take photos when I go for something else, like I did in my last time in Morocco: few weeks that I took to be there, rest, do nothing but enjoy reading, writing, shooting… as I already knew those places quite well. Even though I rarely took the camera out.
And I mean it: you should try next time you travel to a new place.
Especially if you’re not adding anything new to the Internet Bank of Great Photography and Terrible Pictures. We all know that you have a smartphone and a tablet and whatever you use.
You can even add that to your CV or Bio: I own a brand new smart phone. Why don’t you do it? Because it looks silly: as much as it looks when you’re taking pictures with your tablet instead of looking and feeling the moment.
There’s something amazing called “interiorizing” (or keeping it to yourself), which makes you understand much better the theory of everything. Or deeper.
And I do love to see tourists trying to locate themselves with an unfolded map of the city, with the wind folding it back and getting messy. It’s so much funnier than locate yourself on a GPS thing listening to the metallic voice telling you to turn on the left after 37 meters… to a now blocked street because she was not updated on time. Or just ask!… I know, asking makes you interact with other people…
The Internet is full of boring pictures aka snapshots that will never be real photographs. Especially street photography, without even understanding the mood of the street itself. If you want to take photographs: shoot the smells, the sounds, the moods, or the stories unfolded. Fell them and share the feeling. Make me feel the same as you did. If not, only you were there, not even being.
And be creative!
This applies also to every other kind of photography: feel it first. After that, you can shoot.
If you will shoot a model, or do a portrait of someone, it’s better if you take sometime to know the person before, talk and feel and observe, rather than taking the whole time just clicking 300 photographs to chose 1. Most probably if you take time to know the person you will only need to click once.
2HeadS’ aim is to share with you great photography, instead of polluting the world with touristic brain pictures, so you can enjoy, observe and feel them.
more essays you should read:
The Conspiracy of the Triangle (NSFW);
Small Town Inertia;
Bringing the Taboo to Beauty;
Notes On: Crossing Borders;
Tell Me a Story: Street Photography;
Le Voyeur Social;
The Outsiders (NSFW);
What Makes a Good Photograph? (part I);
The Roma Project, by Kieran Kesner;
Katharine Cooper’s White Africans;
Directing Street Photography;
Enrico Natali and other people.;
Philip-Lorca diCorcia in the Street;
Majid Saeedi: Lucas Dolega Award
For any other contact about 2HeadS or my Photographic Work, from Art Galleries, Curators, Art Collectors, etc, please use the GBénard/2HeadS email. Thank you.
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