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Photography & Mindfulness

Posted on October 3rd, 2018

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More photos, fewer memories……

In 2017 it was estimated that 1.2 trillion digital images would be taken. With built in cameras on our smart phones and tablets, capturing a moment has never been easier. But are we too quick to reach for our smart devices when wanting to document a moment? Are we taking more photos only to create fewer memories? And is this healthy?

Lets roll the clock back just 30 years. You were on a beach holiday, somewhere hot and sunny. The camera was packed alongside one or two rolls of film. The hotel you were staying at had a wonderful beach cocktail bar where you sat and enjoyed the waves breaking, sunsets, drinks, conversation with other guests, (Doug & Barbs, who are now life long friends)! The smell of the ocean and the cool evening breeze. And at some point you said to yourself “I must remember to take a photo of the beach bar”. That one photo would serve as a memory of the great times you had sat at that bar.

Here’s the important part!

The memory was created by the sights, sounds, smells and tastes and the fact you were present in the moment. The photo is not the memory. The photo only reminds the brain of all the feelings and emotions you experienced whilst there. Looking at the photo years later brings those memories you created back to the foreground.

Now lets come back to the present day. And I will use a different scenario to demonstrate. A scenario that all have either experienced or witnessed. After a light shower the sky is treated to a glorious rainbow, and whilst marvelling at how phenomenal mother nature is, the person next to you draws their mobile phone and starts snapping away. Rainbow selfie after rainbow selfie. They are hitting that shutter button like they’re losing a game of hungry hippos. Suddenly there are more photos of this rainbow than the total number of rainbows that have ever existed.

Out of the X number of photos taken, one is quickly chosen for editing. After adding so many filters the rainbow now looks like it took place on Mars. The image is swiftly fired out on all social media channels for approval. No memory of the rainbow has been created because instead of enjoying the moment, all concentration of the experience was used documenting it for social media, or for the thought that if a photo is taken it will be remembered.

Memories are incredibly important when it comes to our wellbeing. Positive and negative memories play a part in our behaviour, our mood, how we socially connect with others, how we know what is right and what is wrong. We don’t touch something extremely hot a second time because a memory reminds us of the painful feeling we will experience.

My point to all of this……….. Don’t rush to take a photo. Whether it be an amazing view, time with your children, the biggest slice of chocolate brownie you’ve ever been served. Enjoy the moment, experience everything that goes with it, feelings, textures, sights, sounds and smells. Let it all sink in. Then, take one photo, one photo that is reference to everything you have just experienced. And thanks to digital, if you don’t like it, delete it and take one more.

Instead of having a phone full of photos you don’t know what to do with, in fact it is stressful to look at because you haven’t a clue on how to organise them.

Your library will mean something to you. You will view it and start to have sensations of experiences past. It will be a pleasure and undoubtedly bring joy. It will be the spark that ignites all manor of memories.