Click, flash. Click, flash. Hold…you there, move a bit… click, flash. Clickclickclickclick. 

Not too long ago, I went on a family excursion. The exact location need not be known. What bugged me, as I returned, was how much time I’d spent behind the lens of one camera or the other, taking photos to incessant requests from everyone. Every place we went to, the first thing people did was find the most photogenic location they could, find someone willing to hold a camera, and strike a pose. The next few minutes they would spend cycling back and forth over their photos, completely ignoring the reason they’d come in the first place.

This isn’t limited to my (somewhat large) family. We Sri Lankans, as a rule, are a very photo-aware bunch. Take out a camera – even a phone will do – and you’ll see people settling into various fixed smiles and stiff poses, only to return as soon as the camera is put down. But sometimes I wonder if we’re taking things too far. Go to a party, and you’ll find a bunch of girls snapping duckface photos of each other in the bathrooms. Take a stroll down to the mall, and you’ll find more people doing the exact same thing. Go out with a friends for a random movie, and you’ll end up in a dozen pics. Instagram: phone cameras: we’re stuffed with pictures of ourselves. Look through someone’s photo collection – for preference, a girl’s, if she’ll let you. You’ll find a thousand photos of her and probably one decent photo of that awesome beach or temple or party or wherever it is that they visited last week. We take pictures to record memories, true. But how much of that memory have we wasted posing for photos of ourselves, and how much have we actually spent immersed in whatever is happening?

Take a wedding. The average wedding in Sri Lanka is a very costly affair, made even more expensive by the advent of photography. Couples spend thousands and a good chunk of time posing for ornate, romantic photos in very artificial poses that often never reflect their relationship in real life. Wedding DVDs have them moving hither and yon, acting out a perfect relationship, like a mini-movie in itself. It’s elaborate, it’s horribly expensive, it’s fake. Don’t you find this ridiculous? Rather than enjoy this moment of their life, they spend their money and time rehearsing, prancing up and down, and generally being someone else for the sake of a recorded memory which people will simply yawn at once the novelty has worn off. In the act of observation (and recording), the observed is changed. A great deal of time – which could be spent enjoying whatever you’re doing, be it getting married or hanging out with your friends at the beach – is wasted taking photos that nobody really gives a damn about.

People: forget the photo, open your eyes a bit more, and enjoy what you’re doing. Don’t miss the wood for the trees. Neil Armstrong went to the moon, took three pictures, as the joke goes. A girl goes to the bathroom and takes thirteen. Nobody really gives a damn about your pictures: nobody has the time (or patience) to go through all those flat recorded things, including yourself. The time you spend in the bathroom taking photos is time you miss out on the great party happening outside those does. Enjoy yourself a bit more, and forget the camera.

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