What do I mean about the power of observing, not just documenting? With camera phones and Instagram, we often find ourselves taking lots of photos and planning our posts (and poses) so that we can share with our world our adventures. I know, I do it to. But consider this – when we’re documenting something, are we really participating in it? Are we observing? A couple of examples.
Power of Observing – Musée Rodin, Paris
Several years ago on a trip to Paris, I visited the Musée Rodin. It’s a gorgeous collection, of course, but it’s also in the most amazing building, the former Hotel Biron.
The architecture, the floors!
And then, of course, there’s the art itself. Have you ever seen anything as sexy and romantic as The Kiss? Flesh from stone. And photos absolutely do not do it justice. These pieces felt like they were breathing.
Did I mention powerful? But, what I also observed were all the tourists (this was pre-camera phones and social media) walking around looking at the place through the lenses of their still cameras and video cams! They were documenting their experience, they weren’t living it. Meanwhile, the gift shop was full of beautiful, professionally shot postcards, calendars and books. It was such a reminder to me to live the experience! To grasp the power of observing what I was looking at.
Power of Observing – The American Cemetery at Normandy
On another trip to France, we headed up to the American Cemetery at Normandy high above Omaha Beach. This is a beautiful spot, it’s filled with history and, of course, is iconic. But, it’s a cemetery. It’s a place of reverence – or should be. Of course, I did take photos but they were shots like these (but not these, mine aren’t as good and would require scanning). At one point, there was a group of people “posing” taking photos of each other (this was before social media, but the “selfie” has been around a long time). They were smiling and laughing – as you do with your friends on a trip taking selfies. But, it’s a cemetery. Over 9,300 people are buried here.
This group of people, and I’m sure many others, had stopped observing their surroundings. They were documenting, they weren’t participating in the moment, and because of this, they lost perspective on where they actually were.
So, I always say, when traveling, put down the camera, pocket your phone, and take it in! The sights, the sounds (the cemetery sits high above Omaha Beach with it’s waves hitting the shore), the smells. The essence of a place that cannot truly be captured by a photograph. Take photos if you love to do so, but don’t forget to actually look too. Plus, there’s lots of post cards and professional photography available that’s likely to be better anyway.
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