Where do you aim your camera whether it be a phone or a regular camera? Chances are, especially, given our current obsession with selfies, most of your photos are of you and your friends or family. Now ask yourself how often you photograph your surroundings, something that attracts your attention, something that you’ve passed by frequently and never noticed before? Or the desire to preserve record of your life’s context so you can share it 30 years later?
Take a look at your phone’s camera roll, what is the proportion of selfies, family and drinking shots, to photos of your surroundings? Now ask yourself what would you or someone else think while looking at your camera roll 20 years from now; what would they learn about you and your life? Would they or you wonder why you had so many photos of yourself and or friends absent any context or, would you or that future stranger be able to gather some clues about life 20 years in the past?
There is an inherent contradiction in the way most of us capture a record of a place or time, since the camera became popularized we often feel an instinctual urge to “take a picture of that” only to leave it sit in our phones, our computers or in the shoe box in the hall closet. If you’ve ever gone through your families old photos you’ll likely be able to get some sense about their lives and where they lived. However, it is more likely that the “where they lived” portion will be considerably smaller, leaving you with no clue as to the context of their everyday lives.
While getting this photo ready to post I found myself asking the same questions, because while a good percentage of my photos show what life was like at a particular slice of time, photos of other places dominate the archives. Even though I either have my phone’s camera or a real camera with me most of the time, the number of contextual photos lag. So, most of my photos of the three years spent Houston are family related and mostly lack the context of our lives.
The lesson here is there are vistas everywhere and the ones that capture your life’s context are important especially 20 to 30 years down the road. So, paying attention to our surroundings is important because our surroundings put our lives in a context that completes our story.