My New Year’s resolution this year was to take more photos. Like most resolutions, it lasted about two weeks – one of the many reasons I never make January 1 vows. However, a couple months ago, I finally dug out my hand-me-down camera and found myself snapping away.
For all my travels, my photo collection is not particularly extensive. Certain nationalities seem to live behind their camera lenses – not to stereotype, but all too often I could attribute a flash to either a young American with an iPhone or a member of a Japanese tour group with a 7-inch zoom lens. When my best friend visited me in Prague, she may have acquired more photographs in one week than I did in the entirety of my time there. But I? Well, when I visited Israel, my camera broke after one shot; on a weekend in Copenhagen, it sat forgotten on my kitchen table; on my second trip to Paris, I left my sister in charge of the photo-taking.
I justified my avoidance of the camera aloud by saying I didn’t want to experience a place from behind an LCD screen. I can recall vividly, for instance, Turkish vendors offering up sweets, discounted scarves, and even themselves. My memory captures the simultaneous madness and excitement that brewed in those street markets far better than a photo of mine ever could.
But then, I look back to high school, where a good friend was well-known and applauded for her skills as a candid photographer. I am lucky to have a DVD full of memories of a carefree and laughter-filled senior year. Those photos plastered my freshman dorm room wall, reminders of happy recklessness. But they were never replaced: while at that time I was a film major, I positioned myself far beyond the camera’s view.
I may have said I was experiencing life, but truthfully, I was hiding from it. Dissatisfied in mind and body, I was afraid to be photographed.
The camera had this power of permanence – it was worse than a mirror, more judgmental than a scale. Whether at my lowest weight or my highest, it didn’t matter much – once the flash clicked, my body was forever trapped in that moment. Taking no photos at all seemed a better alternative than potentially being in one.
This summer, though, I have almost more pictures of myself than I have from the past six years. Sure, I’m not close to reaching the number in my high school collection, but for the first time since then, I feel that the frame is preserving my memory, not my size. And more importantly, I think the spirit both then and now is equally as strong:
Although, maybe our sense of style has improved.
Do you find yourself in front of or behind the camera lens?