Enough shots in the dark

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During my coverage of the Wolfe Island Music Festival this summer, I noticed a lemonade stand on the main road, with a sign that read “No Photos, No Video. Stop documenting your life — just live it!”

After photographing the stand, I continued along the road towards the festival.

Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t carry a camera in their pockets, making it easier than ever to take a decent picture without much thought at all.

But the problem isn’t the abundance of cameras — it’s the lack of insightful photography.

Photographs have the incredible ability to reveal another time and place. Without it, we’d never see what it’s like to grow up in a different culture, or look at familiar sights from a fresh perspective.

We’d never see the face of someone who’s lost everything, or neglected communities that needed a voice.

It’s a medium we’ve grown to take for granted, as many people have lost an appreciation for what they have at their fingertips.

With a camera always at the ready, there’s the ever-growing temptation to share smaller and smaller moments with very little afterthought. On the recipient’s end, we’re becoming all too adjusted to consuming these moments in bulk.

As a result, a lot of great moments get lost in the noise.

I’m not saying every photo should be revolutionary or gallery-quality, but we should think about the story we’re telling by sharing these moments. A lot of photos I see posted on social media seem more like a live stream of banal events, rather than fascinating highlights.

It’s hard to resist capturing an experience to show others what you’ve been up to, or have something to look at in retrospect. But while a camera can reveal a great deal to the viewer, it simultaneously detaches the user from the experience.

It’s a compromise we’re often not conscious of — and for many of us, it’s a compromise we’re much too willing to make.

There are moments you should keep to yourself, and there are moments that should be shared, via any medium. Sometimes, it’s worth sacrificing your own experience to give others insight. In the end, it’s up to you decide where to draw that line, but do it thoughtfully.

To the lemonade stand, I say: life is worth documenting.

Arwin is one of the Journal’s Photo Editors. He’s a third-year cognitive science major.

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