Oh crap, this is more than I bargained for; the path of obstacles. I lean back, avoiding a swath of swinging sticks close to my head when a several yards later I sounds of alarm force me to duck to avoid a bombing. When I finally reached the end and remove my shoes to go into the prayer area, my senses now on hyper alert, I spot a wave of zombies trampling by the sign, please remove shoes before entering this area! I quickly dive and slide to avoid their path. This is not a video game, I’m visiting a temple in Bangkok and between the selfie sticks, group photos and tourists in search of the next spectacular shot, and those so engaged in their mobile phones, anything in the way be damned, I’ve become photo ninja, moving stealthy in the midst of this mass photo quest. Why do you take pictures? Who are the pictures for and what story do they tell?
The answer is easy, pull out your phone and look at your most recent photos. What’s there? Pictures serving as reminders of things to do, an interesting landscape to post on social media, something ironic or funny to share with friends. If every picture tells a story, what story do your pictures tell? In the age of digital photography and mobile phones, are photo ops a fun pastime or a dangerous addiction? Do your photos make memories, share pastimes or simply distract from reality?
I am not a professional photographer, an accomplished photojournalist or a digital artist. I don’t know how to compose an image that captures the vibrancy of an open market, the anguish at a tragedy or the soaring heights of a dancer. I am not the one to get those shots. I take 20 to 30 digital photos tweaking and adjusting until I get an image to use for my blog or an Instagram post. With only a day and a half to tour Thailand, I’m not going to get the breathtaking photos to tell the story. If I were skilled, I’d have images of women in their yellow hard hats and orange vests working construction in high-rise buildings, physically matched in size to the men, about 5 feet tall and under 100 pounds. I’d include a photo of people on the street, their complexions in sharp contrast to the billboard in the background for skin whitening cream, whispered hints of a class system. I’d show the old woman on the sidewalk preparing “street food,” and capture the moment she drops a piece of meat into a swirl of hot oil and spices.
If I were both bold and skilled, I’d have photos of the Singaporean college students buying jewelry to sell later sell to pay for tuition. I’d show through pictures, what my mind has trouble rationalizing, the juxtaposition a city of over 13 million, over 90% Buddhist, temples abound, set against the backdrop of sexual tourism and sex workers who make Bangkok the sex capital of the world! All this is to say, I consciously fought the urge to pull out my phone and take pictures. This adduction, this habit, would cause me to miss moments and opportunities to talk to people and see these things in my day and a half.
Your pictures tell your story. Ultimately, we take pictures of what we want to remember and/or what we want to show. This week, notice when you take a picture, who is it for and what story does it tell? Do your photos evoke a strong emotion, make you smile, bring you joy? When was the last time you edited your digital photos? Do you need to edit, out and delete? Consider it; this is your photo opportunity.
My Photos from Thailand: