That is David Sedaris writing about his obsession with keeping his journal updated.
It's not lost on me that I'm so busy recording life, I don't have time to really live it. I've become like one of those people I hate, the sort who go to the museum and, instead of looking at the magnificent Brueghel, take a picture of it, reducing it from art to proof. It's not "Look what Brueghel did, painted this masterpiece" but "Look what I did, went to Rotterdam and stood in front of a Brueghel painting!"
He could be talking about me. And my camera.
I have long had a love-hate relationship with cameras. The love part goes back to the first or second grade when I started documenting the lives of my family and friends. Dogs were alcays a favorite topic.
I even considered photo-journalism as a career. By sixth grade I had started at least three neighborhood newspapers. My friend David still talks about the sports story I wrote noting that he had scored a basket for the other team.
The hate part arises from Sedaris's point. When I get behind the camera, I am thinking asca photographer. Not a person who wants to drink life deep.
Framing to exclude. To narrow. To focus on the specific, not the general. It is as if I am resurrecting my former life as an attorney. Thinking like a lawyer and thinking like a photographer are not that disparate.
What I am not doing is being part of the wide spectrum of life around me. The camera acts as an unintended defensive shield. My personal SDI.
I am not alone in this feeling. Theresa of What Do I Do All Day? has commented several times that she will attend an event taking along her camera. After a few shots, she will set it down and participate in the life around her.
I understand her feeling. And I have a personal reason to distrust cameras. It is awfully hard to be the center of attention with a camera pressed to your face.
Now I know a reductionist argument when I see one. And I just served one up to you. The topic is not that simple. Human beings are not binary switches.
Even though there is a tendency for a photographer to frame and exclude, the process helps develop a jeweler's eye for detail. Just as writing a blog does.
Knowing that I am going to be writing about events in my day makes me more conscious of things that I would otherwise miss. The trick is remembering that writing and photography are merely tools to appreciate life.
And they can be a pathway to actually enjoying life to the fullest. The trick is to know when to put down the pen and the camera and to just stand there enjoying Brueghel's masterpiece.
* -- With apologies to Christopher Isherwood.