Thoughts on Seeing

Even more beautiful enlarged

As fate would have it, I’ve barely arrived home, and today I’m on the road again, this time to attend the funeral of a much beloved aunt.  She was 91, and had lived a good, full life, but it’s times like this that tend to make one a bit introspective about life.

Last week my friend and I were on the Staten Island Ferry on the return to Manhattan.  We had gotten a great seat at the front, but the deck quickly filled and our view was blocked.  All the tourists were busy taking photos of each other when my friend observed that none of them were actually enjoying the place and that they could have been anywhere, even in an empty room, for all they took notice of the terrific skyline.

Her words sort of shocked me, but then I observed, and realized she was correct.   It was actually more important to people that they document their presence on the ferry than to stand and enjoy the spectacular view.

As the ferry approached the dock, the hoards left to prepare to disembark.  It was then that we were left with this world class view.

I think that having such easy access to digital cameras with the instant playback of images has altered how we view the world and how we take photographs.  I know that I’m not nearly as careful with digital as I was with film, that I’ll say to myself that if one shot is good, why not take two, or three.   But now I realize that I need to spend more time looking instead of snapping.

And all I have to say about cell phones is that it is rude to play with them at meals.  Seriously, put the phone down and enjoy your dinner companions and the meal before you.

Lecture over.


Filed under Viewpoint

20 responses to “Thoughts on Seeing

  1. your considerations are so true…
    and when you tell people that it’s impolite to play with the phone during a meal together (unless it’s something really important), they don’t seem to grasp – i told my other half a zillion times, and just doesn’t get through….
    I like the modern gadgets and they certainly changed our world and comms, but sometimes, it’s just better to turn them off and enjoy what is around us.
    Condolences for your aunt, I’m sorry to read the news


    • I love my smartphone, but I use it as a tool, not as my alternate life.

      At my aunt’s memorial service, not one person mentioned that she had a great facebook page, or that she was an instagram star! They talked about how she loved to have a great time and never missed a chance to be with people and go places and have new experiences.


      • It sounds that she was indeed a very interesting person and left fond memories behind with the people who met her.
        Virtual life has some positive aspects (i.e. keep long-distance communications etc) but shouldn’t be a substitute for real life experience.


  2. Hello again….Sorry you will be missing yet another loved one, Liz.

    Appreciated the bits of wisdom in this blog…something to think about. Many thanks.

    This week I opened a booth in a new Antique Mall here in Denver, NC…named “Vintiques” Antique Mall. I needed a fun outlet in my life and this is a perfect setting for my mannequin heads and vintage hats, purses, etc.
    More important….. having a booth gives me reason to buy and sell all the wonderful vintage items I now HAVE to buy.
    I papered the peg board walls of my booth with pages from a 1908 Sears Catalog and it looks great. I had forgotten that in those days, Sears was the only place to get EVERYTHING.


  3. I’ve never understood the casual snapshot culture. Not only do people focus on taking the photos rather than enjoying the experience, but they often never look at the pictures again.

    My condolences for your loss. We lost my mother-in-law earlier this year. It’s never easy.


    • “…but they often never look at the pictures again.” Yes, especially now that almost all photography is digital. I imagine that only a tiny fraction of all photos taken are actually printed. They are placed on facebook and promptly forgotten.


  4. Agreed! On both points


  5. Susanna Van Tassel

    Amen. And well said.


  6. I completely agree Lizzie. It’s like seeing an audience at a rock concert with their phones held up in the air. Why not put the damn phone/camera down and enjoy the concert? Duh!


  7. I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your aunt.
    I agree with you on the issue with documenting life rather than living it. I realized I was doing this a few years ago, and since then I have made a point of giving the camera (especially the video camera) a break and working on imprinting these occasions in my mind. The camera phones make it too easy, and I am pretty tired of seeing photos of people’s not so impressive dinners posted all over the place!


    • You are so right about how easy it is to fall into the documenting mode. I’ve moaned about museums that don’t allow photos, but the truth is I actually take more time and observe more closely when I can’t take photos.


  8. I am sorry you lost your aunt.

    What a statement! But alas it is very true. Just the other night, a group of us went to a restaurant that was on the dark side, and a couple (both parties in their late 30s or early 40s – I just want to mention this because I think people tend to think that this love of tech is a youngster thing) had to go and whip out their digital camera AND phone to take pictures of themselves and our group with a flash. We were in a restaurant, for post-housewarming party dinner and drinks – not like a major event or anything, so I really saw no need for photos, let alone one with an intrusive flash.

    When you said “document they were there” I find that to be so true and telling. In addition to photographs being a tap away, we now have options to “check in” on Facebook, Yelp, Four Square, or tweet about it.


  9. I couldn’t agree more. So glad you had an aunt who was beloved – I imagine she felt the same about you. My condolences…


    • I appreciate all the kind words about my aunt. She was my father’s sister, and they were very, very close. I am lucky to have had the strong women of my family as an influence on my own life, and she was one of the strongest.


  10. I could not agree more about the pictures and living in the moment. I always say, just because you didn’t take a picture, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen!


  11. So sorry about your aunt. Funerals are never fun even if the person lived a long and full life.

    I’ve always been terrible about remembering to take photos of things I want to remember or share with someone later – probably because I prefer absorbing & experiencing life without a screen in front of my eyes. Working on a film set has taught me how much you miss when you can’t see beyond the frame. There’s nothing like the 3-dimentional experience.

    I admit that digital photography (especially now that I have a smartphone) has made me more likely to take photos because I’m not “wasting film”. More than anything, it’s because of blogging that I’ve gotten better at remembering to snap a few photos here and there, and it’s become kind of a photo diary of my projects. It is kind of amusing the response I get when I take work photos of things that I find really common but aren’t to most people.


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