Even though it is not yet even close to spring here in Alberta, we’ve been lulled into hoping that spring is just around the corner by recent warm, dry temperatures. Here is an image made last year in April west of Cochrane; I suppose we’ll just have to wait a little longer to photograph the fuzzy heads of crocus, but I was a little nostalgic so I decided to post an image ‘out of season’.
Speaking of ‘seasons’, I was reminded not too long ago of that 1960s song made famous by The Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn” which put to music scripture from the Bible: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” What got me humming a tune with roots dating back to King Solomon’s time? Well, a music concert, actually. In January, Darwin and I saw Jim Cuddy and his band play at the Eric Harvie Theatre in Banff. It was a terrific show with Cuddy in fine form rockin’ the packed (and cramped) hall.
The only aggravating part to the event was the number of people who had their smartphones out either taking pictures or recording parts of the concert. I’m probably an old curmudgeon (and one of the last remaining dinosaurs without a cell phone let alone a smartphone–yes, it’s true!), but the practice struck me as distracting and rude. I’m going to outline three reasons why I think we should realize when to put the cameras and phones away, and I want to hear from the oopoomoo community on what you guys think about all this.
It Interferes with the Performers’ Performance
At the beginning of the show, we were asked to turn off our phones and that recording the performance was not allowed. People must not speak English very well as this request was promptly ignored as soon as Cuddy smiled his way onstage. And it’s not just the ‘young people’ who are to blame! Cuddy attracts a primarily middle-aged crowd judging by the greying pates and carefully re-constructed coiffures of those seated around me. So none of this Generation X vs. Generation Y stuff. It was Uncle Bill in urban jacket and cowboy boots who was constantly tapping on his damn digital device this time. It wouldn’t be so bad for the performers if people would turn the flash off on their cameras and phones. Alas, it appears that this is very difficult thing to figure out how to do. Once the first flash blasts the backs of the heads of the row immediately in front, and the owner abashedly and hurriedly squirrels the device back into pocket or purse, it is almost as if a certain mentality grows…if she can do it, why not me! Poor Jim; hopefully he was blinded by the stage lights and not put off too much by the flash of phones and cameras winking in the dark.
In Interferes with Your Neighbours’ Enjoyment
That would be me, the grumpy lady flashing nasty, withering looks to the back of your head. See, before devices had such nice, bright LCDs (the better with which to light up a concert hall, my dear!), the occasional flash probably wasn’t such a big deal for the audience’s enjoyment of a concert. But when you are trying to watch a live performance over a sea of floating glaring, white screens, well, it’s hard to concentrate, is all. All that shuffling and dithering with the devices is quite distracting. If you are guilty of trying to photograph or record anything except your child’s first kindergarten concert, then yes, I am here to tell you that the bright light of your phone lights up not only your face and lap but shoots white rays into my eyeballs as well. Put it away.
It Interferes with Your Enjoyment
Don’t believe me? Some say that the human mind (contrary to what we all secretly believe) is only capable of giving real attention to one thing at a time. Maybe two, if you are a mother. Hence Alberta’s Distracted Driving Law. We just don’t multi-task very well. So, when you are busily trying to stuff a 3-D, live performance into your three-inch monitor “for later”, you are obviously not much in the present moment enjoying the very thing you paid good money to come see — Jim Cuddy, live in Banff. And that’s a shame. I have my theories on why we feel compelled to do this, from a growing inability to take in the world in bytes longer than a tv commercial to our strong desire to ‘contain’ and share an experience even if by attempting to do so we ruin our ability to fully take in the actual experience itself.
One More Thing
Now, I don’t want to come across as a Luddite incapable of understanding and appreciating the wonders of modern technology, and I also am not driving at the tired debate of what is a polite vs. impolite use of digital devices in society (It’d better be an emergency when you answer your cell phone during dinner with me, though!). So I’m going to situate this within a larger context and one that I see as a teacher of the art of photography. A good photographer makes images; a great photographer knows when NOT to make an image. We all need time to replenish our creative batteries. Shooters who are constantly photographing experience burnout just as overworked doctors, teachers or any person stressed with the task of repeatedly trying to do something well. And that time is, essentially, ‘downtime’. It is time spent reading a great book, playing with your kids or engaging in an actual conversation. It is time spent listening to a great Canadian musician play live in concert. So my final reason why there is a season to taking pictures, and a time to put the device away, is that — ironically, it’s going to make you a better person.
Okay, oopoomoo community, what do you think!