of the painting was all that seemed to be required.
The constant camera flashes reflected on the glass, stopping anyone from being able to see the tiny, distant painting – at the same time making the glass an essential protection to stop the flashlight destroying the work. Numerous people wrestled to the fore, turned away from the painting, photographed themselves in front of it and walked away without ever glancing at the canvas itself. The absurdity of this action has remained with me. The message was clear: I am here so that I can take a picture to say that I was there.
I see the same attitude being manifested in social situations. People stand in little clumps in bars photographing themselves and each other. People stand at gigs with their arms raised recording the performance for later. When there is nothing worth recording they withdraw from the world and check the status and pictures of their friends.
As Hamlet declared, the world is a stage for our performances. We perform for each other and for our public and the constant urge is to seek reassurance from others that our performances are of value. We do not engage or connect to our surroundings; we simply mine it for potential photo opportunities. I have mixed feelings about Sontag’s attitude
towards photography, but I am compelled to cite her again: “…the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own”.6
The dangers inherent in this approach are manifold. We risk losing empathy as we judge our surroundings and our supporting cast for their entertainment value rather than their intrinsic worth. We separate ourselves from our life, and when the cameras are not turned on we see our time as of no value. We
We do not engage or connect to our surroundings; we simply mine it for potential photo opportunities.
deny ourselves the chance of connecting with our world as we are viewing our lives as an audience views a performer, rather than being in ourselves and placing ourselves in our world. We risk missing new experiences that do not fit the narrative and personality we have constructed for ourselves.
On the other hand, there are photographers like Nan Goldin and Corinne Day who made the private world the subject of all their most memorable pictures. Goldin explicitly “explained that she took up photography in the early 1970s so