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.

by ©Ross B Lewis

by ©Ross B Lewis

by ©Michael Wolf

by ©Michael Wolf

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.

Souk 4, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Souk 4, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Really: Observe.

by ©Robert Doisneau

by ©Robert Doisneau

And I mean it: you should try next time you travel to a new place.

Martin Parr

Martin Parr

Day of Death, by ©Cristina García Rodero

Day of Death, by ©Cristina García Rodero

Trixia, by ©Ross Bennett Lewis

Trixia, by ©Ross Bennett Lewis

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…

Paris 2012 - by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Paris 2012 – by ©Gonzalo Bénard

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.

by ©Giancarlo Rado

by ©Giancarlo Rado

by ©Pieter Hugo

by ©Pieter Hugo

Man 17, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Man 17, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Genesis, Sebastiao Salgado at Maison Européenne de Photographie, Paris

Genesis, Sebastiao Salgado at Maison Européenne de Photographie, Paris

by ©Enrico Natali

by ©Enrico Natali

Danny Fitzgerald and Les Demi Dieux from the Collection of Robert Loncar and James Kempster, Courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York

Danny Fitzgerald and Les Demi Dieux from the Collection of Robert Loncar and James Kempster, Courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York

by Majid Saeedi

by Majid Saeedi

And be creative!

This applies also to every other kind of photography: feel it first. After that, you can shoot.

by ©Yannis Kontos

by ©Yannis Kontos

SMI 4 by ©JimAMortram

SMI 4 by ©JimAMortram

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

January, 2014 by ©Gonzalo Bénard for 2HeadS
follow @GBenard on twitter – Facebook
Portfolio Reviews

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.

Feel free to comment, ask or share any article on 2HeadS everytime you feel that you can add something interesting and positive to the articles.