A picture is worth a thousand words, but are a thousand pictures worth a single lost moment of experience?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by nickjeftic, Jul 23, 2008.

  1. The answer might seem obvious since we are all here enjoying the: “I’ll look at yours if you’ll look at mine”
    game, but is it?

    Just to note that the above question does not express my dilemma but rather a curiosity on how the rest of the PN
    community feels.
  2. Why do you think the pictures are not the moment of experience you're talking about?
  3. I've found that as I pass subsequent phases of needing to keep technical matters in the foreground of my brain as I shoot (and those things become like muscle memory... nearly automatic), the act of shooting isn't nearly the distraction from some moments/experiences as it otherwise would have been.

    Let's face it. If you are a creative, visually-oriented person - especially a photographer - you're going to be looking at composition, light, and narrative timing ALL the time, even when you don't have your camera within a mile of you. Photography isn't a very big part of your psyche if it hasn't changed how you look things, anticipate moments, and size up the little visual details that tell a tale. I'd worry if I didn't look at things that way. In short, I'm experiencing the moments to which you refer in a way that was long ago informed by the act of sometimes also photographing them. I can't undo that, and don't really want to. That also means that when I do happen to have a camera in my hand, it's not such a concious bit of work to get into that mode.

    As for the more semantic issues surrounding the word "lost"... well, when I'm dead (or just older, and foggier), a LOT of moments, as recorded by my meat computer, will indeed be lost, and permanently. Perhaps a few of them will still retain some meaning or information by virtue of my having photographed them. This all comes down to balancing certain sorts of uninterrupted (by camera work) experiences with the later experience of looking at images of them. The enjoyment of some images, after the fact, is an experience that wouldn't happen without producing them.
  4. Fred, Matt.. when my first daughter was born and I witnessed her coming into this world I was so overwhelmed with the her little grunting sounds and the wiggling and shivering and the softness of her skin and the strong grip of her tiny hands and the wondrous expressions on her stunned face.. I could have never experienced that through a viewfinder.
  5. Like I said, Nick. Balance. Now, if you'd never taken a picture of her as an infant, and were asked 10 years later to really describe what she looked like then, could you? Isn't looking at a picture of her years later also an experience? There's time for both. It's not an either-or situation.
  6. Is readignand actually contributing to this thread worth 20 seconds of lost experience?

    I vote no and am going for a run. After that I'll go have some experiences while making some photos.
  7. Matt, I think we actually agree. There IS time for both but its not the same moment! I do have photos of my daughters but they were taken 10 minutes after birth.
  8. jtk


    My photographs (instants of exposure and instants or years leading up to them) mostly feel like bets. Sometimes they're certainties, but the "best" may be surprises, or voids.

    Concepts of past and future aren't as meaningful as we commonly think. Nothing is wasted, an instant is an eternity, everything vanishes, some of it circles back and seems more present than expected.
  9. Ellis your post is a contradiction.

    Beautiful thoughts John!
  10. Creating pictures have been among some of my most special moments.

    There are also family snapshots, that I will always be grateful for, preserving both my own memories and moments in the
    lives of passed loved ones from before I was even born that provide me with amazing experiences when I view them.

    I'm not inclined to divide up experience into real and unreal or more real and less real or more important and less
    important. I don't find myself comparing the experience of taking photos with other life experiences.

    Sure, waiting on line for the ATM is fairly mundane but if I have my camera with me, I'm always aware that I might notice
    something worth while of capture and that actually makes the wait a little more tolerable. It causes me to look at what's
    around me with more interest and intensity.

    John Lennon knew what he was talking about when he said "Life is what happens to you when you are busy making
    other plans."

    When I think of the number of moments I'm privileged to have, I just figure they all are what they are and they pretty
    much add up to a self. I don't think my SELF is something inside my head and I don't think it's a soul. I think it's a
    connection of experiences.

    I try not to use the camera as a substitute for anything. I try to make its use and all the surrounding moments and efforts
    the main event. It often provides all the emotional thrill I want.
  11. Well, firstly, I find that the brief act of thinking about and taking a picture is often considerably more rewarding than the end result...

    And let's face it, many "moments of experience" are actually pretty dull... :) Stick a camera in my hand and I often find that the world becomes a more interesting place to observe, experience, interact with, and document. Having said that, of course I often deliberately put the camera away, if I think that the experience would be better without it. Not always, though.
  12. I always look at things through an internal viewfinder and believe that not having a camera actually detracts from many experiences. I am more comfortable hidden behind a camera than in many other circumstances. Bust as mentioned above, one must be balanced; you have to knwo when having the camera out would be intrusive and desultory for a given situation. JR
  13. "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."
    - Walt Whitman What is the largest number possible? N+1
  14. Sometimes, its nice being on the outside looking in.
  15. Today I was on the Interstate far from home and the sky was doing some incredible things just before a low front moved in.
    My camera wasn't with me, but it was better without. It was a whole body experience. Bringing a camera into play would've
    devalued it. Maybe I've photographed enough. I realize others are at many stages of enjoying the craft and some are even
    making it into art. What went through my physiology and soul this afternoon under those brilliant horsetail clouds couldn't
    have been captured on a sensor. Best to all of you...
  16. It just happened a week ago when I was resting in the beautiful small lagoon, when I suddenly noticed a young mother with two children walking up and down on the rock. Having a baby in one arm and the other was walking freely in front of her. I saw them as a special appearance, being so naturally close to each other. Mother looked to me so careful and very much attached. I've never seen that kind of behavior before. I had my camera with me, but I couldn't take the photo of them. It was joyful just to watch them and I share my viewing with my friends.
  17. Howard, Kristina.. living a moment leaves us memories that are much stronger mementos than plain photos. The best possible scenario is (like Matt noted) if you can have the luxury of doing both. When I travel to a new place I never take the camera with me. I try to completely absorb with all my senses the ambient, the colors, smells, peoples gestures, sounds, tastes of local food.. Afterwards when I visit again I may use my camera to take pictures or on rare occasions even capture some of the essence of my experiences of the place. Actually my initial question eventually leads to a deeper question: To what depth can photos be comprehended without previous relevant experiences?
  18. Sometimes I go out without my camera and am glad I don't have it along. Sometimes I go out without my camera and
    wish I had brought it. Sometimes I go out with my camera and am sorry I have it because I don't see something I care to
    shoot and my bag gets heavy on my shoulder. Sometimes I go out with my camera and am glad I have it because I do
    see something I care to shoot.

    Taking a picture *is*
    "living a moment." It comes with sweet memories just like other moments. It also comes with pictures that may remind us of the moment.
    Taking a picture is not
    taking a break from living. It's something to do just like anything else I do is something to do. How much I get into
    each thing I do depends on a lot of factors.

    I often don't take pictures of strangers carrying their babies, not because
    it would ruin a blissful moment for me but because it might be an unnecessary intrusion on them. If it were a blissful
    moment for me and I also wanted to take a picture of it, I wouldn't take the picture *instead* of enjoying the blissful moment. The blissful
    moment would be taking
    the picture of what I was enjoying.

    When I took wedding pictures at my brother's recent wedding -- and I wasn't
    hired to do so, I was a guest -- sometimes I picked up my camera and sometimes I didn't. When I did, I enjoyed the
    moment as a moment in which I was taking a picture. I didn't miss out on anything when taking the picture any moreso than when I was
    to a friend on one end of the room instead of talking to a friend at the other end of the room. I don't think of talking to one friend as
    something I'm doing instead of talking to someone else.

    Everything we choose to do
    by definition excludes lots of other things we could be doing. If I constantly dwelt on what I was NOT doing or what I was
    missing by doing something, I'd go nuts.
  19. I completely agree with Fred's second paragraph just above. I've met lots of interesting people and had many interesting experiences largely because I was photographing.
  20. " Actually my initial question eventually leads to a deeper question: To what depth can photos be comprehended
    without previous relevant experiences?"

    Taking a photo often heightens my appreciation. I become, a chronicler, an interpretor,a reporter. ( Or document
    the spouting fire hydrant) If having the camera distracts your senses then leave it and just absorb. I am not
    as a few are,compulsive shooter and don't worry too about missing ephemeral events. " Gosh I wish I had a camera
    now for that sunset" ... Truth is by the time the camera is out and set up, the sun has gone behind clouds" And
    the Andromeda galaxy is not available to my longest lens. Thinking Hubble there....

    Not that much of a problem obviously for most of those who replied, Nick.. Whatever works for you I carry
    cellphone and too much day to day junk. No camera phone despite the ads from Samsung. I see where you are coming
    from and I think I understand. I don't sweat the lost moment. Someone in the critique forum will have been there
    and I can enjoy vicariously..that is what the galleries are for.
  21. "To what depth can photos be comprehended without previous relevant experiences?"

    I don't think I try to "comprehend" photos, as such. I just look at them, and think about them within the context of my own knowledge/experience/imagination. Or I simply don't think about them much at all.
  22. Yes, I had a good opportunity and luxury to take this beautiful and natural mother's behavior. But I felt uncomfortable taking it with the big camera and with a big zoom lens mounted on. The space of a lagoon was small and a private kind. So I didn't want to be in their private world which was so gentle and soft, whereas the rigidness of camera would ruin my personal sensation toward them.

    Yes, it could be a blissful moment for me just recognizing them suddenly out of the blue among others.
    I don't see such a bondage in my town among my townsmen. That's why I had a strong compassion and feelings about this young family.
  23. I believe that in each photograph you are experiencing the moment as you capture it. For example, I love street photography, but to really capture anyone well, you must be able to see into their soul and capture the most interesting thing you see; making you a part of the moment.

    Or maybe that's not the case and I take pictures wherever my AF leads me.

  24. You cannot loose a single moment of experience. You can THINK you have lost one if you want, but, in truth, life is only moments of experience.
  25. I think this is a double-edged sword. I think that if you are moved to capture a moment or a scene forever on film, then you yourself have already experienced that moment, that feeling, that emotion and you feel compelled to record it for others to enjoy or be moved, the same as you..which is what you are called to do as photographers. If photography and capturing images in such a way as to evoke in someone else the same reaction as you had in first experiencing the moment in question is your passion, your God-given talent, then you have a responsibility to yourself, your fellow man, and God, to carry out that passion and talent for others to enjoy and benefit from your abilities. {After all, the successful artist (of any discipline) is not the one that necessarily sells the most work, but the one that evokes the most emotion...} If you do NOT do this, then yes, you may have experienced that moment more fully for yourself....but it will be forever lost to the rest of us...and you are then not fulfilling the responsibility that you have. Does this mean that you must always forsake your own gratification for the sake of that of others? I don't necessarily think so, for it is in the full enjoyment of some moments that we fine tune the senses in order to recognize the worthiness of other moments. I guess I could turn the question in this direction, then, and ask all of you: how do YOU judge when it is right to simply observe and enjoy, versus when it is right to fire the shutter?
  26. I first started really getting into photography about 5 years ago while I was in the Navy. I began noticing after about two
    years, that my perspective on the world was starting to change. I started to take notice of small seemingly unimportant
    things and seeing everything in a new light. Though I am a novice compared to a lot of people on this site who have
    been doing this for many years, in my 5 years of photography experience I have come to appreciate things like natural
    beauty and human creativity in ways I never could have imagined before. And the best part is, it will only grow stronger
    as the years progress, and for that, I would not trade anything in the world. I think that pursuing photography rather
    heavily would not make you miss out on anything in life. Contrarily, imagine what those who are so consumed by other
    trivial things like jobs, playing video games, Myspace, TV, tabloid magazines, etc. are missing out on what really
    matters. We must maintain a balance so that we don't get overly consumed and shut other people and necessities out of
    our lives. Photography is foremost an art of sharing. Since this is a philosophical discussion; do you think that we as
    humanity are supposed to spend our lives in monotonous routine: get up, go to work, hate job, come home, pay bills, go
    to bed.... I think we should take more time to "stop and smell the roses" as the old cliche goes, and even take pictures
    of them so we can remind ourselves, as well as share with others, how truly beautiful those roses really are. Just my 2
    cents, but I might get a refund... : )

  27. Experiences are not events that simply happen to human beings. Human beings play an active role in structuring their experiences. This is where the camera comes into play. It simply is another device by which people structure experience. From this point of view, therefore, it makes no sense to think that taking a photograph somehow causes a person to "lose" an experience.

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