Last week we had a fantastic time in Cornwall. We stayed at the beautiful Watergate Bay Hotel and only left its glorious confines for a day trip to Padstow. We were taking a few days to relax and had no agenda apart from breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rocket man enjoyed the hotel’s kids zone on a couple of mornings and we walked on the beach, went swimming and generally chillaxed.
One thing we didn’t do was take a million photos. We took some, but not too many. In fact, at the end of our second day I remember saying to Hubster, ‘We really must take some pictures.’ It was our third stay at the hotel (yes, we really like it!), so unlike the first time, I didn’t need to madly take photos of the chic coastal décor. But most importantly I didn’t want to experience our holiday from behind the lens.
I made a conscious decision not to get the camera out at every opportunity. It’s hard when you’re the mama of a little cutie whose growing up too fast, but equally I wanted to be in the moment, not on the fringes of it.
I think mums especially, find themselves behind the camera, making plans or organising everybody, meaning we often don’t get to simply enjoy the time together. And it’s now almost expected that you’ll return from your adventures with a camera full of picture-perfect family shots, that within an hour of being home should be on Facebook for everyone to see.
But how many photos do we really need? Do our memories need endless albums of photographic evidence?
I’ll always remember a holiday where mum and I were lucky enough to go whale-watching. It was an amazing afternoon and we saw lots of whales. However I spent the entire time with a camera glued to me, desperately trying to capture all the sightings. By the end of the boat trip I’d got some good pictures, but couldn’t shake the feeling I’d missed out on really experiencing being alongside such magnificent creatures. I was more concerned with clicking away and having enough photos for the album. That really taught me a lesson.
A while ago a friend put a picture on Facebook of a concert she was at the previous night. She captioned it something like,
‘This was the only picture I took because I was actually enjoying myself and living in the moment.’
I applauded her in my mind because I fear these days we’re too quick to look for the ‘Instagramable’ moments. Instead of just laughing at our children’s antics, we’re dashing to our phones to capture the moment for posterity, then filtering it and often posting it across social media.
This has got me thinking about how images of every detail of people’s lives dominate our world. Without realising it we’ve fallen into the habit of capturing every second of our day, from pictures of the food we’re eating, to close-ups of our shoes on the school run. We can’t stop ourselves.
It’s wonderful that we have technology at our fingertips and I’m sure our parents and grandparents wish they’d been able to capture more of their youthful experiences, but it’s still more important to exist in the moment, rather than worrying about camera settings and getting our best side.
PUT THE CAMERA DOWN NOW AND THEN
I’m absolutely one of those people who photographs her cup of tea and Instagrams it. For all of rocket man’s milestone pictures I took 100 shots to find the one great one. I appreciate beautiful photos and love looking at others’ happy captures, but I’m also starting to realise that ‘just one more photo’ can be too many.
The sad thing is, most of the pictures we take sit on our computers or in our phones. We might scan through once in a while and even print some off if we’re feeling productive, but for the most part, the thousands of images we take will only be seen a handful of times.
One prime example of this is our wedding photographs. I spent ages researching the perfect photographer and we spent a small fortune on a fancy album and a large selection of professionally printed photos. But I’m still yet to frame any and in the last four years we’ve looked at the album twice. Luckily on the big day we didn’t dedicate a long time to family photos, but at some weddings the bride and groom are missing for hours, as they walk five miles around a field.
IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE
Yes, I want to look back when I’m old and grey and see my family in glorious technicolour (or black and white – love a bit of monotone), but I also want to remember how I felt in those moments. The sun beating down, the chaos of a birthday party or the anticipation of Santa’s visit.
My mum didn’t take that many pictures when I was younger (I hated having my picture taken and still do!), but that makes the pictures we do have a bit more precious. I remember my childhood like it was yesterday. Full of fun and friends. I don’t need heaps of photos to bring back those happy memories.
I’ll never stop taking and sharing photos because they are a fantastic reminder of the crazy lives we’ve led, but I won’t let my eagerness for a photo intrude on the moment either.
It’s a balance between living our lives and documenting them.