The Importance of Not Taking Photographs / by Hannah Harley

Almost daily, I encounter someone who photographs for the sole purpose of posting on Instagram. They revel in layering filters and spend hours coming up with the perfect caption with accompanying hashtags. They walk briskly around scenes, attempting to capture the golden evening light in a square format. I'd be a complete hypocrite if I acted like I hadn't done it all before. Or even that I haven't done it today. 

But I was able to pause this holiday season and think it through. I was wondering how to get that perfect "my Christmas was absolutely flawless, obviously" shot, and I realized that this type of thinking completely removes us from these important moments. 

Believe it or not, digital photography and Instagram, are actually changing the way our minds log memories. In a 2013 study, individuals were found to have a worse memory of an event when they were photographing it than when they were simply experiencing it. (A fascinating article on the impairing effects of photography on the mind can be found here.) In an effort to preserve that moment forever, we are losing ourselves in the process. We, you and me, are becoming less present for these experiences. 

And while I love a good Hudson filter and the affirmation that my photographs are good enough to warrant so many likes, I don't believe that we think about this self removal process that is inherent in photography as much as we should. We are Snapchatting constantly, Instagramming daily, and yet, our memories are slipping away from us. 

So this Christmas, I didn't photograph. I didn't take a picture on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Instead of worrying about aperture and composition, I was worried about keeping my grandma supplied with coffee, keeping my dogs out of the ham soup, and beating the beejees out of my cousins in cards. In thirty years, maybe I won't remember this Christmas very well and it'll blend in with all the other years of filtered photographs and forgotten snapchats.

But maybe.. Just maybe, I'll be able to remember what it felt like to be surrounded by uncapturable goodness and unending love. 

Happy Holidays, my dear friends. I hope yours was filled with memories that have become a part of you.