The Photograph

My first memory, in front of the camera, was when my father asked me to smile for him. Despite being a shy kid, who didn’t know how to smile for the camera, I tried my best to show my bunny teeth. Back in the day, my father had a keen interest in photography. His muse was my mum, who looked (still looks) so beautiful, capturing her in front of every iconic monument or place of interest. He eventually graduated to his three kids, capturing our childhood, and sealing it in film. My father dabbled in candid photography — capturing his subjects (us) in various stages of REM sleep, timed family portraits (including the last minute dash to make it to the photograph), and prop dressing (sports days, play dressing, and face painting with markers). On his work trips, he captured science museums, colleagues, and landscapes. The old albums are a tearjerker. I can’t seem to turn the pages without getting moist-eyed. The prints have aged, some eaten by fungus, and yet what remains — is a time capsule — to go back into the past.

If my father had to write this post, he would have started with the history of the lens and how photography has evolved over the years. He’d have started with dates, events, and names of people or how it revolutionised the way we capture what’s around us. And given an opportunity, he would have tried to get some Physics into it. I’m tempted to take a similar route — without getting too technical.

I don’t remember when I got my first camera, but I do remember wondering, why did it take so long? I was probably in my early twenties and it would soon become redundant, in five years time or so, with the cellphone transforming into smartphone. Suddenly, photography was the coolest craze. Everyone was taking photographs — with family, with friends, or themselves (with/in the mirror). My first instinct was to stay away from it all. I remember it bothering me. The emotion seemed to have been lost with the rise of narcissism. The attempt to capture every ‘tiny‘ instant in time, however insignificant it may be, was on the rise.

With the ‘invention’, if one can call it an invention of sorts, of the selfie, photographs were transformed forever. Yesterday, I saw a young girl (I was tempted to believe she was a blogger), armed with her camera (on selfie mode) and tripod, find isolated spots (in a crowded park) to click of herself. It was strange to see a person posing for an unmanned camera. Maybe, I’m living in another epoch.

9

Gearing up for the Winter Olympics

But, what bothers me the most, is the fact that I might be slowly drawn to the other side. Ever since, I’ve started blogging about travel, I have an urge to capture everything that looks beautiful or shines (Seoul Lantern Festival). Almost every insignificant detail. We’re just back from Jeju, and I have around 700 odd photographs, of our trip, on my phone alone. Have I succumbed to the fantasy and illusion of the virtual world? Is wonderland truly trapped in our phones or cameras or memory banks or blogs? How real is any of it? Will we ever have the courage to unplug ourselves from our devices or smartphones and wake up and smell the coffee? Or will we fall for anything that shines and forget to live the moment — because we were too busy capturing it?

2

Hope floats on Cheonggyecheon Stream

In a world and a life that moves so fast, photography just makes the sound go out and it makes you stop and take a pause. Photography calms me.

Drew Barrymore

6

Local food from Gwangjang Market

3

A year of the new brand

I love photography, I love food, and I love traveling, and to put those three things together would just be the ultimate dream.

Jamie Chung

7

Representing America

4

Representing China

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.

Confucius

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Cutting ice from the Han River — before the refrigerator came along.

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Trips back in time

Over the last few millennia we’ve invented a series of technologies – from the alphabet to the scroll to the codex, the printing press, photography, the computer, the smartphone – that have made it progressively easier and easier for us to externalize our memories, for us to essentially outsource this fundamental human capacity.

Joshua Foer

23 responses to “The Photograph

  1. You make quite a good point there. It’s sometimes hard to strike a healthy balance between capturing shots for memories and actually living the memory. Either way, you’ve wound up with some pretty beautiful pictures 🙂

  2. Basil and you take good shots, Cheryl. Your father sounded very dedicated to photography, and I bet he was good at it. I really like the quote by Drew Barrymore. I took an interest in photography when I started my blog, and it has made me look closer around what is happening at me. Sure, some can say you are distracted when you take a photo instead of seeing it with your very own eyes…but in order to see you have to slow down and actually look around.

    Sometimes I can be like that girl you mentioned. I will take my tripod someplace and take a photo of myself 😀 LOL. No shame there. At first when I started doing it, it felt awkward but then later on I realised no one really cares 😀

    • Thanks for your comment, Mabel. I think, Basil is a natural photographer. He sees things differently from me. I prefer dreaming or living the experience. These days, I do dabble in photography, for the blog. But, if I meet people, my camera is off and I prefer talking. 🙂 I understand the selfie stick is pretty handy for solo travellers, like yourself. I wanted to mention that, and I didn’t. So really there is no shame if you do pose in front of an unmanned camera. 🙂 I guess, there are some who take it to a different level. Bordering excessive maybe. That’s what bothers me. The constant clicking sound and use of flash. Makes me feel trapped in a paparazzi war of sorts! 🙂

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  4. There is a trade-off; when to take a physical picture and when to just take a mental one? Are you taking pictures just to take pictures, or are you trying to make art?

    I don’t really get the selfie craze. If you go someplace interesting, is it about the place and the experience, or is it all about me? I can appreciate the occasional “we were here” shot, but some folks are taking it to ridiculous extremes.

    • You’ve said it well, Dave. I remember, on many occasions, we couldn’t take pictures. Sometimes, the moment passes so fast. And yet, it’s etched in our memories. Basil and I always talk about it. I get the occasional “we were here” shot too. We’ve done those for/with our family. Our parents love them! 🙂
      However, as you have pointed out, these days it’s turned into the, “we were everywhere” shot. It can get annoying.

  5. Ahhh, I wrote a whole post once on this topic! I tend to come down on the side of seeing with my eyes versus the camera, yet I enjoy the artistry of composing a photo as well as creating memories for myself. I think the selfie craze is the most obnoxious thing ever. It falls right in line with the me, me, me focus too many people has adopted these days. Like Dave, I get the “we were here” shot, but the constant posed ridiculous selfies irritate me (too much, probably!).

    • I agree with you, Lex. Sometimes, it’s just too much. Especially, in tourist spots or places known for their scenic beauty. We try beating the crowds whenever possible. I get the “we were here” shot too. We’ve done few of them ourselves. 🙂 More so for our family.
      The need to record everything bothers me too. After a while, Basil and I decided to switch off. That’s the best part of a trip. Taking it all in. 🙂

  6. I’ve never much liked selfies Cheryl, yet we have friends who insist on taking them everywhere they go. However, like you, I think I’ve developed a fascination and, dare I say, obsession with capturing everywhere we go on camera. I’d like to say I live in the moment but sometimes I wonder what it would be like to go away, somewhere, anywhere, without a camera or phone. Now, that would be truly living in the moment. Wonderful post, words and pictures as usual. xo

    • Thanks, Miriam. We have a lot many friends who do like clicking selfies. Especially, since I’ve come to Seoul, the cultural centres are really crazy about clicking pictures. I think a lot of their funding is derived on how many foreigners attend the cultural programmes. I really like what you said, “I’d like to say I live in the moment but sometimes I wonder what it would be like to go away, somewhere, anywhere, without a camera or phone. ” I’ve thought about it. I’ve even thought of doing a post on it. haha! 🙂

  7. This is brilliant. I’m also always torn between “enjoying the moment or capturing it”, and often afraid that my tendency to usually want to just enjoy it, may make me regret it in the future because.. how long will the memory last without a photo? But then again.. maybe it will be more precious?

    • Boraaaa! I’m so happy you visited our blog! 🙂 So, you know, when you asked me for trip pics, I was so lost, I had so many to choose from. And the Jeju trip has been an eye opener for me. When do you stop? When do you stop clicking? That’s what I had been asking myself. Maybe for a very long time. What you said, “how long will the memory last without a photo?” makes so much sense. It’s one of the reason why I blog. I wonder, if there could come a time that I may forget all of this. Kinda scary that thought, but if it ever does happen, I can probably count on this virtual album.

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