by AAU MFA Student Katie del Vecchio
Are we photographing too much? Technology has made it very simple to record every moment of our lives, the good, the bad and the ugly. This statement may sound a bit contradictory, since I was a photography student in Italy for eight weeks. Sometimes I was a tourist, and sometimes I was a photographer. There is certainly a gray area between the two. Walking around Florence any day of the week is like playing a game of Frogger, trying to avoid tour groups and being hit by cameras and large umbrellas being used to block out the sun. There is nothing wrong with taking “touristy photos,” but at what point do you put the camera down and just enjoy the moment? You want to take a photo because something drew you in, you might figure out what that something is before you click your shutter.
On the other side of this subject is photographing the ugly and terrifying moments that seem to be happening every other week somewhere in the world. What comes to mind most recently is the Attack in Nice, France. The media overloaded us with footage, and I can’t help wonder how appropriate it is to be filming and photographing instead of helping. I was visiting a friend this past weekend in Nice, and as we walked through the memorial, teddy bears lined the walkway with handwritten messages to loved ones. I couldn't read the language but the feeling in the air said it all. I felt if I had taken my camera out, I would have been disrespecting every life lost. I know there are photographers who can capture a moment with respect, but I felt I would not do it justice. I am sure there are journalists who have put the camera down to help a person in need.
I remember being in 7th grade when the Twin Towers were hit, and I watched the smoke filled television and then looked out the window of my New Jersey home to see thick clouds of black smoke. I don’t know what was worse, watching it on TV or in real life. From that moment I always wondered where the line for depicting tragedy was. It’s extremely sensitive, and it might all come down to respect.
While photographing anywhere, whether you are traveling, watching a concert or simply observing the world as it unfolds, you should photograph with respect for the subject and the people around you. Don’t be that guy at the concert with his phone up the whole time, barely enjoying the live show in front of him. Don’t be that person who sees a cry for help but needs to take a photo first. Take a step back and live in the moment.