On a long hot summer day twelve years ago, two girls hopped onto a surfboard paddling away from the
shore of Vancouver. With every kick of the water, they knew that they were venturing deeper and
deeper out into the unknown. Excitement grew, and they did not look back.
Then out of the blue, there was a faint cry: “Carol! Cathy! Look here! Smileee!” And just like that, the
once adventurous atmosphere disappeared.
“OMG Mom! Soo annoyinggg! Didn’t she already take like a thousand photos of us?” asked my sister
Cathy. But fearful of punishments, we quickly forced our smiles at our mom who stood awkwardly on a
large rock and waved at us with her camera.
Similar stories throughout childhood made my sister and I grew up believing that for most of the time,
cameras do not serve to capture the moment, but destroy it. And even though I was only six at the time,
I had already grasped the intrusive nature of cameras…and my mom’s obsession with photos.
But it wasn’t long that I too, found myself caught up in photography in our ever-expanding and evolving
photo-crazy culture. And like most people, I take photos of food, of people, of shows, of nature, of
myself (rarely though), and of almost everything every single minute of the day. And why do we do that?
To relive those moments. To mark our history. To show off. The reasons are many.
But my role as a journalist constantly reminded me that our experiences are far more valuable than all
the beautiful photos we take. When we take out our phones and snap pictures of our food, of the
fireworks, of the amazing dancing duo, it’s no longer us that are looking, that are feeling, that are truly
engaged, but our cameras. When we whip out our camera and try desperately to get that perfect shot of
that perfect moment with that perfect lighting and that perfect angle, we miss what is happening right
in front of us. And we cease to be fully mindful of the present.
I’m not arguing against the merits of cameras or photography but merely our obsession with them that
sometimes, suck the life out of us. If not for my mom and for her camera, I wouldn’t have a bank of my
memories preserved forever that I could share them with others. So of course, I love and deeply
appreciate cameras for their amazing contributions.
But nothing piques me more than when I find myself or see others caught up in the obsession of taking a
gazillion perfect photos instead of relishing the moment. How much meaning do they hold after all,
when these photos are just images, with no feelings attached?
Over the Winter Break, my sister asked me if I wanted to hang out with her on one chilly afternoon.
“Sure,” I said. But hanging out with her was not so easy because she had one golden rule: no taking
pictures. I agreed, and she pocketed my phone. And that afternoon was a rendezvous with the sense of
freedom that I’ve lost over the years.