Twice now around town I've seen flyers with this slogan stuck to advertising posters. It promotes Non-Photography Day, July 17th. The promoter, a Brighton-based photographic artist called Becca, says that:
This day was made after trekking through the Jungle on the Thailand/Burma Border with a group of travellers. As you would expect we came across many wonderful views, villages and creatures on our way; however I noticed that the people around me were living in these moments through their camera, and as soon as we stopped and were still, all reached for their camera.I'm sure we've all felt this, even as we reach for the camera. Isn't it enough just to be there and look?
Non-photography Day is designed to help us:
to think about how life exists, in essence and not appearance and to understand the inadequacy of the photograph in describing this essence, to bring awareness of the perils of living through the view finder or the display screen.An admirable and worthwhile aim. But that isn't the same as celebrating the moment is it? Thinking about the essence of life demands reflection, a suspension of thoughtlessness, a documentation. By observing her fellow travellers, one could argue that Becca was doing just that - thinking, reflecting without a lens - and thereby failing to celebrate the moment. She was taking another kind of photograph.
Perhaps it's significant that the site does not explain how one is meant to celebrate the moment. It's taken as a given. Yet any celebration requires a certain distance from the event itself. After all, the event can only be itself through distance. In celebration, we isolate the event in time and space. For instance, how does a 'wonderful view' manifest without distance?
A few days ago I quoted Kafka on the subject. He takes it further, placing life's essence in the awareness of our distance from it. The paradox animates his writing. His expressions of inadequacy, rather than being only cries of self-pity, demonstrate that it is a necessary component of life experience. Cries of joy have an equal weight. Neither draws us closer to the world. Rather than seeking in vain to collapse that distance, Kafka brings it to life. The only alternative is death.
Non-Photography Day: your funeral.