I pray that the Native Americans were not correct. If taking a picture of someone steals a part of their soul, we would be a civilization of soulless creatures. Everywhere I turn people are taking pictures, asking me to take their picture, or threatening me with violence for sticking bunny ears on them while they’re taking their own damn picture.
With the advent of digital cameras and every phone coming with a camera we are a society that is trying to capture every moment, but willing to delete that moment if it does not meet our expectations. Cameras were once brought out for special occasions. Birthdays, graduations, a woman next door undressing, now we take pictures every time we go out to dinner.
What are we to do with all these photos? Before they would sit in an old shoe box to be taken out when one was feeling nostalgic, now they sit in digital files until your computer breaks down or on some website where acquaintances can marvel that your face still has two ears, two eyes, and a mouth and nose.
Perhaps my belittling of our photophile age comes from the memory of my first writing job. When I was in college I wrote for a newspaper in Tallahassee. They paid me $15 an article which seemed like a fair rate since minimum wage was $5 an hour and it usually took me a couple hours to write a story. But one day when I was sent down to Cape Canaveral to cover a protest I was handed a camera and told to take some pictures. This was in an era when one had to develop film and I had no schooling in proper photography, but I did my best at pointing and shooting and they ran the photos with the article. I was shocked to see my check for the story was $60.
“That’s nice of you to give me some extra money for gas and lunch.” I told my editor.
“Oh that’s, not why we gave you the money.”
“Well that’s really cool of you to give me a bonus for crafting a story that takes the reader to the scene.”
“You got $15 for the story and $45 for using three of your pictures.”
Ever since then I’ve been bitter about the picture word equation.