Does Photographing a Moment Steal the Experience From You?

Countless photographs are snapped every day by people looking to preserve their life’s experiences, but is the incessant picture taking actually robbing us of them? Travel photographer and writer Erin Sullivan recently gave this interesting 8-minute TED Talk on the subject.

In growing her popular Instagram account, Sullivan was interested and amused by how many similar photos she found online of the same places she visited and captured.

And after going to famous landmarks and seeing people get out of their cars, snap a photo of the location with their phones, and then get right back into their vehicles, Sullivan began thinking more about this behavior.

Sullivan notes that recent research revealed that photo-taking can increase our enjoyment of experiences. But if a person shoots a photo solely with the intention of sharing it, there isn’t an increase in enjoyment.

“Let me be clear: I am not trying to discourage you from taking photos,” Sullivan says. “Even if thousands of people have been to whatever exact location and taken whatever exact photo, I encourage you to get out and create too. The world needs every voice and perspective, and yours is included.

“But what I’m trying to show you is that the phone or camera doesn’t have to stay out all the time. What I’m trying to encourage you to do is to put it away, just for a moment — a moment for you.

“[…] The next time you [pull out your camera], first stop, pause, take a deep breath, look around. What do you notice? […] Remember that this moment only comes once. Photography can be part of a beautiful experience — just don’t let it be a block between you and reality. Be intentional, and don’t lose a beautiful, irreplaceable memory because you were too focused on getting the shot.”

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