I’m pretty sure there will come a time when we will wear devices that capture a visual record of our every waking moment.
Imagine the editing process. If you think it’s boring fast-forwarding through TV commercials, consider browsing thousands of photographs of routine moments of your life. This may lead to new careers in “visual life editing.”
We’ll hire someone else to select the photos for our life’s slide show, while we’ll continue clicking the shutter. Philosopher Rene Descartes penned, “I think, therefore I am.” An addendum might be, “I click, because I can.”
A recent series on photography and memory by National Public Radio explores the issue of photography overload and how to find more value in what you photograph. Psychologist Maryanne Garry, of the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, believes that spending so much time in back of a camera can change the way we experience and remember life.
“I think that the problem is that people are giving away being in the moment,” Garry says in the NPR article “Overexposed? Camera Phones Could Be Washing Out Our Memories (May 22).” If people take hundreds of photographs, “then they just dump the photos somewhere and don’t really look at them very much, ‘cause it’s too difficult to tag them and organize them. That seems to me to be a kind of loss.”
Recent research by psychologist Linda Henkel from Fairfield University shows that the act of photography can impair memory.
“As soon as you hit ‘click’ on that camera, it’s as if you’ve outsourced your memory,” Henkel says in the NPR article. “Anytime we kind of count on these external memory devices, we’re taking away from the kind of mental cognitive processing that might help us actually remember that stuff on our own.”
To wade through this onslaught of visual information and maintain some memory of your photographed life, I recommend the following:
• Create photographs thoughtfully. Seek out moments of significance. When you frame a subject, pay attention to aesthetic qualities, composition and light. Be more attentive in the moment of the click.
• Rather than treat each photograph as a separate subject, create larger collections of images based on specific subjects, topics or events that interest you.
• Make prints of your photos and hang on your wall or organize an exhibit. I regularly move digital images off my computer and into online, print-on-demand books by publishers like Blurb and Lulu.
• Step away from your smartphone or camera occasionally and just enjoy the view.
— Chief Photographer Mike Yoder can be reached at 832-7141. Check out more photos at ljworld.tumblr.com.