For over two years now, I secretly yearned for a nice DSLR. It began with Black and White Photography, a class I took as a sophomore in high school. I dived into a love for how aperture, ISO, and shutter speed cooperate to create visual wonder. The ability to direct the viewer's attention wherever I wanted with manual focus captivated my interest more than anything. The power to do that escaped my hands when I used point-and-shoot cameras, which I had been accustomed to until then. I kept all this secret from my parents until graduation night. I hoped they would buy me the DSLR as a present. The idea would have been an easy sell, but I kept (accidentally) breaking very important rules in our household. Regardless, after numerous arguments and persuasion techniques, I finally got what I wanted.
Within less than a month, my parents planed a vacation. I looked forward to this for several reasons: I love traveling, I escape (almost) everyone at home for a week or two, and new locations provide for the perfect opportunity to improve my photography skills.
At every location we visited (and there were many), my parents kept asking me to record our experiences via photograph. Previous to this vacation, pictures of people grinning in front of something never bothered me. However, after taking an exceedingly large amount of them, I realized something: I really hate snapshots.
Why, you ask? Why does such a simple type of photo enrage me so?
Well, for one, I hate snapshots because I don't consider them to be photography. I define photography as an art where the person behind the lens chooses to capture something they are interested in that most other people wouldn't notice or get to see. In my pictures, I aim to expose the beauty in the ordinary and the extraordinary. Yet, when I look at something beautiful and my mom jumps in front of me exclaiming, "Take a picture of me!" and grins, inspiration plummets. Why is it so accepted to be such attention whores? (I'm not trying to call my mom, specifically, an attention whore!) I understand portraits and landscapes, and a mix of both, where a person is interacting with the environment in an interesting way. Nonetheless, I can't bear to look at, or take, pictures that express no real emotion or have no idea behind them other than "HEY! LOOK AT ME!"
Not only do snapshots express a need for attention, but they also lack imagination. It's cool that you went somewhere this summer and you took pictures, but I don't understand why you have to be in them. Traveling makes for a great experience, but that snapshot makes for a dull representation of it. I'd say I'm sorry to break it to you, but I'm really not.
At first, I kept quiet about my resentment of snapshots (I never voice my opinions immediately after forming them, do I?). When I finally confessed my hatred of them to my parents, they wrote me off and instructed me to take the pictures anyway because these are THEIR memories. The thing is, though, that no one cares about their memories but them. Which is nice, but when my parents send a picture to my grandma back in Lithuania, she isn't going to care if my dad is standing in front of a waterfall or if it's just the waterfall. Someone's face in front of a beautiful landscape simply pulls the attention away from what is behind them. The shots evolve from appreciating nature, so appreciating oneself.
So next time you're on vacation, or just taking pictures in general, please either leave yourself out or be creative about how you incorporate yourself into your environment, because I, for one, will not care for the photo otherwise.
P.S. - Don't get me wrong, I love people in photos. I just wish it was creative. Admit it, people smiling in pictures almost never makes for a quality image.