Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sentiments on the selfie stick

Confession: I used a selfie stick. I am somewhat proud of it.

Before I reunited with my parents in Rome, they passed a week in Paris. Since it was just the two of them, sometimes they struggled taking photographs with both of them in the frame, or there merely were not any people around to ask to snap a photo, something that has likely plagued travelers for years. In order to combat this, my dad succumbed to pressure, purchasing a selfie stick. For those of you who are unaware of this device, it is a pole that attaches to a cell phone that allows one to take a selfie from further away, allowing a larger frame. Through the duration of their travels, my dad continued using the selfie stick over and over. Soon, it became an obsession for him. In three weeks he took over 2,000 photographs. Don't worry, not all of them were selfies, but a lot of them certainly were! Even though it was incredibly embarrassing at times to use the selfie stick, it certainly had pros and cons and got me thinking about photography and life through a lens.

When my mom first told me they bought a selfie stick, I gasped. My parents tend to be the cool trendy parents; my mother wears purple-tone hair and my father bought overalls in Paris! My parents rock cooler-than-average parent status. When I think of the owners of selfie sticks, I imagine narcissistic teenage girls posting one-too-many selfies on Instagram, not trendy globe-trotting parents. After spending a few days with them and the selfie stick in action, I noted some of the appeal. It allowed my family to take pictures of ourselves in areas when we were the only people around.  As my father put it, he wants photos of himself with my mom or with me, not just photos of beautiful places with no one in them. To him, photos of beautiful landscapes aren't as special as ones containing people. This extendable phone arm allowed my parents the ability to have photos of all of us without having to ask others do help us. At first, using the selfie stick was a bit embarrassing, but after a while, I did not mind as much. I chose not to care what others thought and I decided to enjoy taking the photos so that I would have lasting souvenirs, making the fleeting embarrassment easier to bear.

My father made a valid point about wanting to possess photographs with people in the frame. They make photos of beautiful places like the Eiffel Tower all the more personal. It is one thing to have a picture of a gorgeous location, but these places are made all the more beautiful through the inclusion of loved ones. He furthered his point by saying that if he wants a picture of a beautiful building, like the Colosseum, he can find a more stunning one from another source. The sentiment of my father is something I certainly agree with wholeheartedly. I much prefer having pictures containing people. For me, they help me remember the feelings I held in that particular place, reminding me of the energy of the moment. Often in my travels, I have found that the photographs I possess of  locations rarely make the cut for photo albums or scrapbooks. I choose people pictures over photos lacking subjects any day of the week.

After talking with my dad about his feelings on photographs, I thought about my own ideas on the topic. As I said, I agree that it is 100 times better to have photos with people in the frame. That goes without saying. I think my dad is right in expressing that if I want photographs of a certain landmark, it is incredibly easy to find better, higher quality pictures in gift shops on postcards, on the internet, in educational books, or magazines. There is no lack of beautiful pictures of famous landscapes at one's fingertips. As someone who takes all of their photographs on an iPhone (Full disclosure: all the pictures on my bog have come from the iPhone and I have to say, I am thoroughly impressed with the quality!), I completely understand that my pictures will not compare to anything a professional captures. I do not expect perfect pictures and I actually enjoy some of the imperfections; imperfection mirrors real life. However, If I want a stunning photo of St. Peter's Basilica, I can look to some incredible photographers to find a stunning photo that will remind me of that place. I have an incredible amount of respect for photographers. It is an art form about which I know very little of which I am completely in awe when I see stunning photos captured by professional eyes. With that in mind, I would prefer photos of people that I take and look to professional photographs for locations.

Looking to professional photographers brings me to another point I have mentioned on my blog; sometimes I do not like taking photographs in certain situations. Allow me to elaborate:in certain situations it is better to look and enjoy with the eyes rather than look at the world through a viewfinder. Do not get me wrong: Take photos. Take as many as you can within reason. But in museums, do you really need to take a picture of the art on the walls? If you want a picture of the "Mona Lisa," you will find a perfect one in the gift shop that will be infinitely better than anything you can take on your selfie stick. Maybe I am jaded-I got smacked in the face at the Louvre by a tourist with a long-lens camera taking photos of every single work of art in each and every room. Instead of really looking at the artwork, they look at the world through viewfinders. So much of life is spent looking but not really seeing. For me, it is about being present in the moment. Look with your eyes, not with the camera. Do yourself a favor and see the world fully.

Thinking about photographs, I know I truly love them. They are some of the best souvenirs, lasting a lifetime and taking up no room in that over-stuffed suitcase. So here's what I have learned about photographs: buy the selfie stick and take as many photographs as you can. With technology that holds thousands of pictures, click away and take as many as you can. You will never regret it. However, be selective of what you choose to snap. Remember that it is important to document the trip, but you will never look back at that picture of that random street in that random city with no one in the frame, but you will enjoy the pictures of your family and friends. If you want a beautiful picture of a famous place, support a photographer and buy prints that will remind you of the places you visited through a gorgeous piece of art.

Take photos and see the world! xoxo--C

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