When I was 20, my parents took me to Europe. It was an early celebration of my impending graduation from university and an affirmation of my Art History major – a kind of modern day homage to the 18th century grand tour.
Mum was a keen amateur photographer in a time of pre-digital technology, where being a “keen amateur photographer” pretty much required a PhD in light readings, exposure settings, shutter speed choices and selection of angles and framing. Every photograph was a miniature study; a Jekyll and Hydian battle between science and aesthetics.
My mother — always more on the art side and rather less on the science — would deliberate, contemplate, double check and formulate … so that the simple process of taking a photo became an agonisingly slow, death by a thousand cuts. And this can be attested to by the multiple portraits of said dutiful daughter, scowling in front of Michelangelo’s David, disdainful atop the Duomo and aggrieved under the Pont-Neuf.
I was young, I was self-conscious, I was infinitely impatient.
But what a difference a quarter-century makes. Thank you Steve Jobs. Thank you seamless technology. Thank you glut of digital images floating around in a cloud that never rains and rarely commits any memories to hard copy.
The images we now snap on our phones are about a moment in time, not meant for posterity, nor to sit among a family gathering over a mantlepiece, but rather, to reflect an instant, a feeling, an emotion, a sense of a life being lived. Creating images only takes a second, you can bang out a handful, hopefully not pain your loved ones and friends in the process and end up with some pretty epic and playful captures.
So when I’m out hosting a Meetup, I always try to wrangle a group shot. Sure, it might feel weird at first participating in a choreographed ensemble with a bunch of strangers, but then it becomes funny, endearing and uniting — at least for me at any rate. I am partial to a ‘jump shot’, I’ll admit it. It’s actually a very good analogy for who we are as hikers; we’re together but not perfectly in sync, some explode from the frame while others remain contained and the energy is a mix of power, chaos and beauty. Plus, there’s safety in numbers.
It’s taken me awhile to wash away that young, self-conscious art history major (and it’s been fun doing it) but now, when I’m out exploring the world and I’m surrounded by smart phones rather than hefty DSLRs, I figure, what the hell … might as well jump.