I think I hate my DSLR. Detest it. Abhor it. Can’t bear to look at it and would have parted with it had it not been for the fact that it has given me some of the best photos of my life. And of course, I hate conundrums, such as this one, when I can’t decide whether I love it or hate it.
Case in point? Its very entry in my life. Flashback to nearly four years ago, when I was a starry-eyed newly wed bride still in my wedding churas, gliding about Singapore in a heady haze of romance and perfume, with my arm forever linked to my brand new husband’s. Said husband takes me to this brightly lit store and buys me my first ever DSLR, the Canon EOS60D, as our wedding gift. “Take care of this, okay? This is yours to handle” he had said, as he handed it to me, and I let the camera’s heavy weight sit on my hands, unable to believe such a precious gift was all of mine. The very next day we go out to see the sights, and I realize that when he’d said it was mine, what he’d really meant was it was his. After three polite and four not so polite rounds of “Here, let me” and “No, please let me!” (in gradually more un-newly-wed-like variations) and quite a bit of snatching and pulling, I decided to relinquish my rights over it. I did flirt with the idea of warming up to it on a subsequent trip to Singapore by going out all by myself with just a bottle of water and the camera dangling from my neck, all touristy, but it never developed into anything more than a flirtation. The camera became my husband’s, and I became its hesitant subject.
Holidays post camera became a lot more “Wait! Turn around! No, no… Go stand there again!” and less “I love walking on the beach holding your hand as the sun sets behind us“. More “You keep going, I’ll just join you” and less “Look! This beautiful flower would look perfect on your hair. Here, let me” Which is when I realized that while it is getting easier to document our memories, it is getting (quite stupidly) more difficult to actually make memories. And like everything epiphanic in my life, this realization came to me in a sudden moment of clarity. It was on our last holiday to Phuket. One gorgeous morning, we woke up early and decided to go to the beach, and while the munchkin and I walked on the sand and watched the crashing waves, the husband stood quite far away all the time, witnessing all of it through his lens. While walking towards him, I realized that he had not, for one moment, actually walked with us, talked with us or even shared the same space as us, so busy was he “preserving” the moment. And I told him in that polished way one perfects after years of being married, that the next time we come out he was to leave his camera in the room. To which he politely replied, no, he wanted to capture all the moments. And like polite married people we left it at that.
I mean, what is this big deal about documenting every single thing? And what is with this obsession with perfection? There used to be a time when people could, and would capture and document an entire holiday in 36 snapshots, 72 if they were being indulgent (I’m obviously talking about point and shoot film roll cameras) Having limited storage meant that a certain moment had to be indeed special to be preserved. So you got a single picture of you awkwardly squinting in the sun with a big big smile plastered on your face because it was your first time ever playing with the waves. You didn’t get the luxury of a redo just because you didn’t get that picture-perfect smile right the first time. You did what a camera was really meant for: captured a moment. And you took a moment to do that. That photo might come with its imperfections, and it was those imperfections that made it all the more special. And because there was no way you could see what you had captured at that very moment, it meant that when you finally did, it was truly a flashback. With each photo you held in your hand, you relived each moment, long after that moment was gone.
Compare that to this instant gratification thing we’ve got going these days. You are present in the moment, but with the purpose of documenting the moment. You capture it, relive it a second later, review it, and sometimes redo it. All the while forgetting to actually experience living in the moment. And you ask me why I have a problem with it?
Let me get this straight: I am not dissing cameras or photographers. On the contrary, I am actually talking about the significance of a photograph. I guess what I am trying to say, in a rather wordy rigmarole, is: Don’t go about assigning the precious tag mindlessly. Make memories. Live in the moment. Then capture it. I’d rather sit and talk with you and look into your eyes than let my lunch get cold, and pose for your lens while you go about taking photos of what’s on our plates. So keep that thing away from me, I don’t need to see it for now. And maybe, just maybe, when the evening’s over and I am all satiated with good food and company, we’ll take one for the keeps. Is that too much to ask for?