While recently attending the visually-sumptuous Oiran Dochu Procession in Tokyo, Japan, I jostled my way through the crowd to a good spot. I was about to get “the shot” when an old man chided me: “no photographs, just remember.”
He was right.
The women in elaborate Edo-era courtesan outfits were being documented from every angle. To take it in without the barrier of a viewfinder would be an inherently richer experience. I put down my camera and enjoyed the spectacle unhindered.
As mountain people, we regularly immerse ourselves in places of grandeur and great beauty. We face challenges and dangers—natural as well as self-imposed—and regularly push limits for ourselves and others. In the process, it’s regularly recorded, often from multiple angles and in multiple formats.
Despite the unparalleled access to physical locations and information that we enjoy, more and more of us are blindered and enthralled by digital image, communication and social media technologies. But because a photo or video can be captured doesn’t mean that anyone wants to see it. There are now so many pictures and videos in my daily feed that I never have enough time to view it all. It’s overwhelming.
With nearly seven and half billon humans on the planet, the likelihood that any of us are the first to do something is becoming less likely by the nano-second. This shouldn’t mean that it diminishes our experiences. However, it does mean, that there are fewer reasons for us to share it. If imagery is to be shared, I want only to see what is most beautiful, funny, impactful and rare. That’s it. Period.
Our perceptions and expectations are formed by and filtered through our experiences, culture and perspective, and mine is refracted by the prism of 30 years of journalism. What is paramount to me is newsworthiness, uniqueness and the ability to effect change—though I also value humor, irreverence and questioning of authority. Current times and technology task us to become our own best editors. When it comes to what I transmit into the world, I’ve become ruthless and unforgiving. My mantra is that less is more.
Exercising personal editorial control isn’t the end of virtual life as we know it. There is a semi-meaningful reality beyond our social media feeds and those who say, “picture or it didn’t happen” can suck it. We are lucky people that get to enjoy the world in ways that few people do, and I often remind myself to not take that fact for granted. My advice: put down your device, look up, experience and enjoy what existence offers you as the run quickly ends. (Trust me, I died a couple years ago — but that’s a story for another time.)
I’ve often missed the true nature of events by being so narrowly focused on eyepieces and view screens; to the point that it feels as if I’m looking at life through a toilet paper tube. While I may have pictures, I’ll never be able to relive those moments.
Before raising your device, I encourage you to ask yourself: do I really need to share this moment, or will it be better to live it?
Kill your action cam, live your life.