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Thursday, June 07, 2007

There is a certain beauty in impermanence, I realised.

Before you read this blog post, I want you to try a little experiment.

Take a camera, any camera. It can be film, digital or handphone. Find something interesting happening in the area around you. [or heck, if there really is nothing, focus on something trivial, like the potted plastic plant.]

Now, take a picture of that interesting thing. But at the same time that you do it, keep one eye on the viewfinder, and one eye on the actual event. Then take a picture.

Can you do it? I realised that it's very difficult to do so, because my eyes were taking in two different perspectives of the same image. The information that goes to your brain is that of 2 different things, the image of the thing itself, and the image on the viewfinder. Since your eyes usually combine information received from both eyeballs in order to process imagery, you will most likely see a jumble of 2 strangely similar, yet different images of the same thing.

Still with me so far? Good.

Why this has suddenly inspired a blog post is because of the number of pictures that I've been taking on the handphone and on Kenny. I was at the opening event of the Arts Fest, taking pictures of the acrobatics and I realised how 'bent' my vision was.

You see, although I was watching the event, I was only experiencing, in fact, a poor visual substitute of it on Kenny's LCD screen. Like, come on! This fantastic acrobatic display was happening right before my very eyes, and I was watching it through a 2.5 inch LCD screen when i could have been seeing it in real, unadulterated life!

Do you think we've become a nation of voyeurs?

This concept is not an old one, and I think it came up when the first camera handphones first came upon the market. Last time, though, people were more concerned with the potential for criminal voyeurism. [unlike the paparazzism I seem to be tending towards] Now, though, I'm concerned about another thing.

Are we so entranced with the images, that we forget about the real thing?

As an amateur photographer, I admit there's a kind of pleasure in capturing a beautiful, lasting image. Technology is getting cheaper, and more accessible to every aspiring wannabe like me, so anyone of us can claim to be an 'amateur photographer' if you have a camera with a decent number of pixels, 3X optical zoom and a good memory card. [Or even a handphone with the same features] Once you buy that shiny new toy, you wanna snap every thing in sight, and you bring it out for all kinds of events, snapping away and playing with all the features. Something that I, admit, am guilty of with Kenny as well.

But part of the thrill of photography is also the interaction with the environment around you. Perhaps this is best expressed by a sentiment I read in a photography magazine: That as children, we play with the tool. We become familiar with its technical features and we get pretty decent shots. [no more red eyes on your friends]

But to really transcend this and become a GREAT photographer, you must also have a keen awareness of the environment around you. You must know how the light falls in the evening. You must know which direction the sun will rise from. You must know the colours that are around you. You must be friendly enough with the people to get permission to take their photos.

How will you do this behind an LCD screen?

It is hard. Like all great artists, you have to drink deeply from the cup of life, before you can take truly great photos of it. Without the knowledge, and love, of your environment, it is hard to take really good shots. Perhaps you can take decent looking holiday snaps, but that is all you will ever get.

Maybe once in a while, you can just leave the memory cards at home, and the handphone in your pocket. Get a chance to really taste the life that is before you. Go out and really live in it, rather than just staying a voyeur of it. Sometimes, the true deliciousness of life comes not from viewing a poor photo of it, but from the awareness that this is all you will get, and that if you don't take in all you can of it now, you will lose it forever.

Maybe, the true beauty of life comes not from its seeming permanence, but from its fleeting moments. That the moment is made ever the more beautiful because of the possbility of it flying away forever at any moment.

This really only hit me as I was leaving the event. I left a few moments too early, and before I knew it, the first fireworks had flown into the sky, straight golden rockets that burst into huge sunflowers of lights that briefly shimmered for a while, then fell gently to earth.

My first thought at the time was to quickly switch Kenny on, and take! take! take! Then I realised, I was wasting time just trying to take him out of the case, switch him on, and changing to the fireworks setting.

I put him back into my bag, and walked backwards along that street, all the while letting the fireworks burn themselves into my eyeballs, and my memories and appreciating them all the more for it.

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