Remembering Leisure Time.

I watched at SXSW as people quickly shot images (mostly groups and selfies) and then manically rushed to upload them to internet sharing sites. The two processes, shooting and sharing, have become so intertwined now that the relative importance or the priority of the two processes seems muddled. The operator's brains rush from one intuitive process, the making of images, to a totally different and more menial mental process (the halting gyrations of the upload interface) which represents an opposite cognitive task. In a sense the brain is stopping and starting and changing direction to complete the combined operation. Each task adds its own "friction of trade" and has its own inertia.

Watching this made me long for the days before interconnectivity. In the days (both digital and filmic) before the ability and pressure to endlessly share evolved one could spend a full day, or at least a few wonderful hours, continually immersed in one task. Taking photographs. No abrupt task changes. No changing over to the logical opex mind. No submerging of creativity in deference to delivery logistics.

While it may not have generated any greater number of wonderful images I would imagine the more continuous and uninterrupted practice of taking photographs and separating delivery from the process would be more calm, restful and emotionally beneficial. Perhaps, as the shooting/sharing process becomes more and more endemic I could create a profitable workshop that has nothing to do with aesthetics and everything to do with separating these conjoined and mismatched twins and freeing up the harried, modern photographers from their own, self-imposed timing tyranny...

Either that are I can continue shooting and sharing old school with big gaps in between.

I think it is cynical and mean to include wi-fi in a camera. Yes, I know, you love to send images of the kids at Disney World to grandmother back home as soon as you shoot them. I am equally sure that your mother is wise enough to wait until it's pleasant and convenient to open and view the images.

I pondered this because recently a client asked me to shoot an event and IMMEDIATELY send them as many images as possible. I spent the event shooting with the delivery pressing on my mind. Should I shoot the images as medium sized jpegs to speed up the process? Should I shoot less to speed up the editing? Should I take fewer risks with the images since I would have precious little time to post process? In the end I did all those things. I felt the pressure of the deadline encroach on the shooting.
I delivered by six a.m. (my deadline) but the time stamp on the shared folder informed me that my client didn't access the folder until nearly 2 in the afternoon. Could I have produced better work if the intention of delivery was separated from the shooting?

I did it because it was business and business is sometimes fraught with compromise. But as an amateur shooter or avid hobbyist why would I put my creativity (and mental wellbeing) under that kind of stress if it's not really necessary?

Immediate sharing requires a shifted focus and a bifurcated attention. Is it really worth it?
I'd say no.

(The image above was taken two weeks before being developed, a month before being printed and was only widely shared twenty years after its creation. I'm glad I was able to savor the shooting experience).


Robert Roaldi said...

Remember back in the 1960s how every futurist predicted that we'd have much more free time one day.

STA said...


Three things struck me and you allude to all of them in your post.

Firstly, the technology, or the phenomena of how technology is marketed is just an idea. And thus, essentially innocent. How we choose to use it is another idea. And here we have some choices that can be made with awareness. For obvious reasons, marketing departments ("Stay connected! Be the first to upload...!!") have their own ideas about the ideas we should have.
With awareness, we can choose the second thing you allude to which is absorption. Absorption in task/idea and the insight that it produces provides a deeper awareness. It becomes self-energizing and while the work either "works" or it doesn't, I see the work improve with absorption.

Lastly, the notion of the educated client is a worthy one. I know a cat - very famous, very successful color (over five decades - Kodachrome and now digital) photographer who only works in available light. When asked what what he did on a job when the light was "crappy" he said, "I wait for the light." Further queried as to how he dealt with the client in those situations, his words were something to the effect of, "My clients understand."

An educated client. We should all be so lucky.

Yoram Nevo said...

I wonder how Lou reed's perfect day would have changed if he had taken photos and shared them each moment

Craig Yuill said...

I bought my wife a new, higher-end compact camera for Christmas. In the past she would take photos with her older camera and upload them to facebook that very day. With her newer, better camera she has been taking her sweet time posting photos, taking weeks or even months to do so. I am not sure if there is a connection between her new camera and new ways of sharing photos, but it seems that the craze of instant sharing does not last forever for everyone. It wouldn't surprise me if instant sharing becomes passe in a few years. A trend that has come and gone.

atmtx said...

Other than having some fun with Instagram -- and mainly as a distraction when I have time -- I don't shoot and upload anything, immediately.

Even as a passionate amateur, or perhaps because I'm an amateur and I have the luxury of time, I make sure my photos are culled, properly selected and post processed before uploading.

I'm not going to lower my standards because someone (or the current social convention) wants the photo immediately after it's shot.

Andrea said...

It seems that the majority of shoteers+sharers are simply DOCUMENTING what they are looking/experiencing, in a way so fast that is totally acritical. They give attention to the content of the shots but not to the meaning, and just the most cursory examination of the quality of them - in the end, if the photo is not very good just slap a strange filter on it and label it with a funny caption...