… a lot. My dear friends, many people are willing to sacrifice more than is healthy just to take that one picture of themselves in front of the Sphinx or on the top of the Empire State Building.
I spent quite some time in New York which means meeting a lot of tourists. But this problem is not only about New York. I would say that the virus of the selfie is abundantly spread throughout our world.
Don’t get me wrong. Photography is part of my life as well as good food. And you know how much I love food! But even though I bring 5-10kgs of my camera equipment to every single trip I do, I still split my time.
I don’t spend the entire time with the camera in front of my face. How could I capture what the place really is, what it means, if I didn’t take the time to get to know it first?
During my first year in the US, I put on my personal Facebook exactly nine pictures from my travels. No, it’s not because I wouldn’t be traveling enough, oh, no… Besides New York, there’s Philadelphia, Boston, New Orleans, Chicago and tons of hikes through multiple reservations like Mohonk. Be sure that I have more than enough photos. After all, the 9999-picture cycle on my camera was taking its third round that year!
So, what am I talking about here? I’m talking about when taking a picture costs us the experience. Did you really pay for the flight tickets just so you could spend hours and hours running from one touristy (or “the most instagrammable”) place to another to take pictures, which you will be able to boast with on social media? Did you really pay so much money for that concert just so you could see it only through the screen of your phone? You could have watched it on YouTube for free!
It’s hard to write about this in general; let me give you an example. When the end of my stay in New York was about to come, I decided to enjoy a few of these touristy places as well. So I went to the Empire State Building.
I’m so grateful I did it! Seeing the city at night, pulsing with life, cars, and people flowing through its streets like blood through veins,… it’s almost indescribable. From above you see how the whole city is living its own life and how it makes its own decisions and nobody in the whole world can tell it what it should do. If the city decides that the Coca-Cola ad on Times Square is not working today, then it’s not working today and nobody can do anything to change that because New York City has decided to give that goddamn ad a break.
On the roofs of some smaller buildings, there are people dancing in the flashes of colourful lights in the rhythm of some music you cannot hear up there. Strong wind is playing with your hair – and you doubt you’ll be able to brush it ever again. Being so high above it all and having the opportunity to see the whole city from a birds’ perspective is something really special. I took about two pictures. I didn’t come there for pictures.
While I was enjoying the view, I heard people running outside on the balcony and curse – yes, they cursed on this beautiful place! – that they look terrible on that selfie because of the stupid wind and that they have to take another one. Then they were pushing each other to get the best pictures and as soon as they were more or less satisfied with the outcome, they ran back inside the building just to… yes, to choose a filter for the picture!
And while I was looking at those beautiful fireworks shining on the horizon, coming probably from the east part of Brooklyn, they were looking into their phones and posting that picture. Probably with hashtags #thebestview and #nofilter (after applying at least ten of these). What the… you didn’t even see the view with your own eyes, just on the screen of your phone! And then they rushed to get down and run for another selfie in some other touristy spot.
My question is; was it worth it? What are you going to remember? Why do you need ninety selfies and each with a different filter? Are you a super-busy pro photographer and came here for work that you don’t see this beauty in any other way than through your phone/camera/whatever you’re using?
For you guys, who came here from YouTube or know that I have even few vlogs (video blogs); maybe you’re thinking right now that I’m counter-judging. It looks like I’m criticizing this photo mania while I “do the same”. Not quite. Whenever I’m filming a vlog, it’s the same for me as with taking pictures. I film what I need, what I think I could say – but then I put my camera in my backpack and forget about it. You have no idea how much of my time out there in the world you haven’t witnessed! Sometimes, I even don’t take my camera and just mention it later. Sometimes, I leave my camera at home completely and you don’t even know about my trip.
But I always – ALWAYS – make time just for myself and the moment; without any camera or phone or whatever else could draw my attention away from being present, to enjoy the place as myself and not as someone who writes a blog or needs that booby picture on Instagram. And even though I really wouldn’t mind this – writing blogs and articles and taking hundreds of pictures – to be a part of my future job, believe me, I will never give up giving myself enough time to be there in that moment when I’m there. Does it make sense?
And my wish for you is: be honest with yourselves.
And if you realize that you don’t remember anything from your last trip but looking at the screen of your phone, overcome that need to have your phone in your hand and take pictures for Facebook or Instagram all the time, put that electronic toy away, on the bottom of your backpack and forget about it for five minutes. Buy a coffee on Pont Neuf and try to admire that place without spamming all the people on Snapchat (or any other platform) about it.
You can thank me later.
I hope you are honestly enjoying any place you are in right now and to see you back here soon.