It’s Just a Photo, Dummy


This recent headline caught my eye: “Woman Falls to Her Death While Taking Photos at Eagle Falls in Lake Tahoe.” That’s been happening a lot in recent months, and especially since the invention of the selfie.

“Oregon State College Student Falls to Her Death from Cliff While Taking Pictures.”

“Grand Canyon Tourist Falls 1,000 Feet to His Death While Taking Photos.”

“Indian Couple Who Died Taking Selfie in Yosemite Regularly Took Risky Photos.”

I always notice these stories, because I think it would be a terrible way to go. But then, I have a falling phobia based in part on my overactive imagination. I always wonder what people are thinking on the way down. Probably just AAAAHHHHH! But if it were me, I’d spend the last few seconds kicking myself for being so stupid.

“It’s just a photo, dummy. And you never look at them, anyway.”

Which is true. Before digital cameras, my photos used to languish in plastic film cartridges. I find one every few years in boxes I’ve moved from house to house. Even after discovering them, I seldom go to the bother of having them developed. But I also never throw them out.

In the smart phone era, I’ve taken thousands upon thousands of photos. A few of them I post to social media, just like everybody else. If Facebook ever goes kerplunk, so will much of the evidence of my existence. The rest are, I don’t know, drifting in the digital “cloud” that my iPhone is always nagging me to buy more space in.

I doubt I’ll ever see these photos again, because I don’t know how to access or operate this cloud and don’t really care to learn. I suspect someday, my cloud will be so overloaded, it will rain my motley collection of digital sunsets, selfies and vacation shots down upon the digital landscape, potentially causing regional digital flooding. If so, sorry about that, digital landscape, especially for all those photos with my thumb in the frame.

There are thousands more photos of mine stranded on the 15 or so desktops and laptops I’ve owned. I have a similar collection of old cell phones, each holding about a billion more photos I never bothered to upload, download or save. But I doubt I’ll ever see them again. I can’t imagine caring enough to figure out how to A) find the phones, B) power-up the phones, or C) get the photos off them.

Even if I did, I’d probably put them on a hard drive, which I’d then stick in a box.

A lot of people are like me, I suspect. We take lots of photos but never do anything with them. So, why do we take them in the first place, even to the point that we’ll risk our lives?

I dunno. My guess is photos are somehow proof to ourselves (and to others, someday) that we had a good and fun-filled life surrounded by people who loved us.

But do we really need that? The images our brains snap are better, more vivid and last longer (literally our whole lives) than anything we can capture with a camera.

I’ve been trying to keep that in mind. When I do something special, I try to focus all my attention on the actual experience.

I’m not going to miss out on moments because I’m too busy recording them to look at later, which probably won’t happen anyway for all the reasons heretofore mentioned. I’m going to experience them now, fully. When I do, I find I enjoy things more. Plus, I increase the odds that I won’t fall off a cliff.


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