Experience v. Photo

The sunset was magnificent. It spread out against the sky in six shades of orange, coral and gold. The sky, in contrast, was almost turquoise. Half the sky was painted with the sunset. I looked up, and my eyes filled with color.

On another day, I did take the photo.

On another day, I did take the photo.

It was a busy street, and almost everyone pulled out their phones and began to photograph the site. At first I thought they were phoning friends to describe the colors, but no, they were photographing for the next post on Facebook or Instagram. It’s a natural decision, now that we are all armed with cameras and video cameras that come with our phones.

I stared at the sky, experiencing the hugeness of it. I didn’t want to photograph it. I didn’t want to experience it through a viewfinder. I wanted to feel the colors with my whole body. Of course, I have no photo of that sunset (the photo in this post is of another sunset). I might forget it. I can’t show it to anyone else.

But I experienced the sunset as a full-body experience, powerful and beautiful. And it’s OK that I didn’t record it and that it is gone. It was a pure, clear moment of wabi sabi, and I am grateful.

--Quinn McDonald lives a life that is sometimes unrecorded, but never unfelt.

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22 responses to “Experience v. Photo

  1. I have some minds-eye pictures that I’ll never lose … that I didn’t miss because I was futzing with my camera at the time.

    • Hmm, new favourite word futzing. I shall look for an opportunity to use it!

      • And italics as well! Excellent jiggery-pokery :-)

        • (“Jiggery-pokery” is a British expression meaning “futzing”)

          • Being of British descent, I knew jiggery pokery, it means some often devious slight of hand or scheming. I thought futzing meant much fussing . . . I’d say tutoo-ing around (there is no correct spelling, rhymes with put-too )but that’s my South Pacific location talking.

          • Futz is a Yiddish word, and it means puttering around, often aimlessly. I love your South Pacific vocabularly. It extends mine.

          • Yikes, I’ve been misdirected by my British network engineer colleagues; they always talk about “jiggery-pokery” as “messing around with the hardware”!

          • Only if it involves some, definitely-not-in-any-manual-and-never-will-be procedure.

          • I know “jiggery pokery” as the beginning line in many double dactyls. This is the one that comes to mind, and it’s a clean one, too!

            Jigery pokery,
            Benjamin Harrison,
            Twenty-third President,
            Was, and, as such,

            Served between Clevelands, and
            Save for this trivial
            Idiosyncrasy,
            Didn’t do much.

          • Oh believe me, this stuff is definitely not in the manuals :-) It’s not aimless, exactly, but it’s certainly puttering (another excellent term). Any system of sufficient complexity can exhibit unexpected and initially mysterious behavior. Futzing, puttering, and jiggery-pokery is what happens in the next phase, when you’re trying to get it to “do that again”. The phase after that is when you get fed up with the system’s misbehavior and bring out the scientific method, which is tedious, slow, and more than a match for anything the puny universe can muster.

          • This is one of those times where I realize that what you do and the creative exploration I call art are very similar. I love the consecutive steps of puttering–> jiggery pokery—> do it again—>experience. It sounds good.

  2. Having travelled quite a bit I was amazed at the number of photographs I took until I worked out that they had a pattern to taking them. I would soak the environment in, photograph, and then soak it in again. Some experiences, could not be photographed but I can close my eyes and describe it completely. A Tibetan monk showed me an antique painted chest of drawers in his sleeping quarters because he overhead me saying how much I admired the art work . . . a monk’s bedroom in a Tibetan monastry, complete with cat sleeping in the sun on the windowsill, motes of dust drifting through the air, a slight gray caste to everything save for the gorgeous chest against the wall, is not where you whip out a camera!

    It is that memory, honed early, that allows me to feel my father’s hand holding mine while I skip-walked alongside him. He died almost 55 years ago and I’d rather have that feeling than a photograph . . . although the few I have are rather precious.

  3. As Susan Sontag put it: Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into
    image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution.

  4. dancinghairwoman

    I have never been a camera bug. Even on special days when a mother or grandmother would want to photo album the first day of school I didn’t take a picture. Some days I regret it since I don’t have as many pictures of my family to share with them. I like to think I was too busy being in the moment.
    Lest you think I’m not sentimental, I will admit to having asked someone
    else to do the photographing on occasion and cherish those pictures.
    I appreciate Antonia’s comment about “taking pictures with the heart”. It makes me feel better about not having so many in book. My heart, on the other hand is full to brimming.

    • I was deeply involved with photography many years ago — to the extent of shows and publications, even. I eventually realized I wasn’t really particularly interested in photographs — I was just a camera bug! I still like cameras, but hardly ever produce any photos. I don’t like cell-phone cameras because the process is ridiculously simple; if you don’t have to set the f-stop, shutter speed, focus, keep in mind the film speed, grain, and color gamut while translating everything into the zone system — well geez, what fun is THAT?

  5. snicklefritzin43

    Every morning and every evening here on the west slope of the Rockies I arrange my time to be free of commitments so that I can sit or stroll and take into the core of my being the wonderfully beautiful skies….and it is just at these times each day that a huge gathering of crows does their flight pattern above, behind and in front of my house…seldom do I take out the camera….I watch and listen and h ave my journal for writing as I await these moments…even on days like today where the temperature is at freezing now as I await the sunrise I have my sweater ready so I can go out and take in the colors…the camera does record the colors differently than my brain does…what a gift we give ourselves when we slow to allow each day to infuse our being with the glorious sights and sounds of the planet.

  6. Yes, the same thing happened to me last week. The sky was magenta and blue. I did not try to capture it on my phone because I knew it would never look as majestic as the real thing and I didn’t want to diminish the experience. I would rather try and remember it imperfectly.

  7. When I had to choose my first e-mail address my hubbie suggested Happysnappy because I took too many pictures, even before the digi times. :D That being said yesterday was my father in law´s birthday. We had breakfast with him (perfect picture-of-the-day op) and we gave him a BLUE (Life on the Go prompt) fishing rod.
    Now ask me, did I take a picture? No, completely forgot.
    IC had a party with that. I should make her read the previous post about mistakes.

  8. I am blessed now with a view in which I can see the sun set..it was one thing I always dreamed of ,bizarrely I had no idea when I viewed the flat that the sun would set opposite. Without going into the criteria of my life and why I was flat hunting,it was a dark time. Once we moved in and realized what amazing light we had…in a very small space…we didn’t care ,we love it. The kids think I am bonkers,my joy for the day is seeing the sunset….when its clear,it is the UK after all…..I stop just for that ten minutes….and look and enjoy and contemplate the day. Sometimes the sky after illuminates into a wonderland. Before I read your post this morning I was thinking about what makes us happy,makes us tick and get up in the morning,how what inspires one persons heart ,means nothing to someone else. So many people walk past the flat staring into thier phones texting and seem not to have even noticed the sunset? Astounds me. I do take pictures,but not always. If nature and an awareness of the beauty that surrounds us could be captured in our hearts everyday,wouldn’t everyone be happier,than striving for material possessions. You can’t buy time or nature or a hug…but they are the things that make life tick. I am having one of those days where I just don’t get it,so it was an apt post!

  9. Yes, some majestic moments are lost in the mad scramble to preserve.

  10. I watched the NASA rocket take off with my daughter and I echoed almost the exact same sentiment to her father. It’s too easy to view life through a camera and miss out on the “feeling” of the experience.

  11. “I wanted to feel the colors with my whole body.” How wonderful. I once missed the chance to “feel” the encounter with a sparrowhawk in the garden because I was scrabbling for my phone to take a photo – I learned something there! The Jesuit writer Anthony de Mello spoke of the art of “taking photographs with the heart” so they’re always there for us to savour again. An art I’m trying to learn…

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