When you should take pictures

BEFORE THE ADVENT of digital cameras we had to exercise restraint in capturing moments lest we waste the Kodak film that cost about P100 or more, depending on how many shots were available. We had to make sure the film wasn't exposed. Cursed was the man who left the double-A-battery-operated camera under the sun.

These days, people take pictures everywhere, the principle being, "If I didn't take a picture of it, it didn't happen." That's both a good and a bad thing.

There are extremes to the tendency to take pictures, and people can be classified as a camwhore or a recluse. I came up with that categorization without any valid proof whatsoever, except my personal experience, the validity of which is subject to fluctuations in my emotions and whims. Majority of us are somewhere in the middle.

I must confess that I use the term, camwhore, sparingly. Its allusion to prostitution disturbs me. Why not use "a camera addict" or "a really narcisstic person who needs to affirm his/her existence by means of photographs" instead? But camwhore is part of every day language now, so there. People who belong to this category document every minute of their lives, flooding social media sites with photos of their dogs, kids, pancakes, clothes, and faces—lips curled up, twisted, and all that jazz. I think my undergrad friends from MBB belonged to this category. While we were growing and cloning bacteria in the lab, we were taking snapshots of the most important subjects in the world—ourselves—but we never forgot the E. coli and the green fluorescent proteins, which we needed for our lab reports. I like to think I'm a changed man now.

The second category is the recluse. To this belong the people who hate the camera or the mere idea of capturing the moment. They value privacy. They feel they don't look good enough for the camera lenses. They despise social media, thinking of them as an instrusion upon their privacy. They shrink away from group pictures, preferring to take pictures of their friends rather than have theirs taken. The best redeeming quality of the recluse is their consistent decision not to take photographs of the food they eat. Think of J.D. Salinger or Thomas Pynchon.

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I LOVE my block with a passion, but I've long since accepted that when it comes to having our block portrait, we'll never be complete. This tendency to shoo the camera away has, I suppose, something to do with male dominance. We're mostly males—huge, muscular, testosterone-loaded*—who'd rather go on with our lives instead of taking a few seconds to take out the iPhone, ask the waiter to take the portrait, and flash our teeth for the 5 megapixel built-in camera. You can debunk my sex domination theory, of course, but I won't tell you how.

My theory is that my blockmates don't realize how important photographs can be—if not for now, then for the future. Those precious minutes of smiling before the camera are investments for the future. We can never go back to the past, but photographs allow us to look back at it with clearer eyes. How will they answer possible questions from their future progeny, questions along this line: "Dad, how did you look when you were 24?"

I'm glad, though, that we somehow managed to have our group photo taken today, even if there were only about half of us. Our concept was the Secret Service. Guess who the President was. The more stupid we looked, the better.

block3
From right: Lennie Chua, Joreb Cruz, Marvyn Chan, Elizabeth Ching, Migz Catangui, myself, Jegar Catindig, Carlos Cuaño, Carlo de Guzman, and Franco Catangui


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I'M NEITHER a camwhore nor a recluse, but I think I know when pictures need to be taken. Below is a short but incomplete list: 
1. An embarrassing moment, such as a classmate sleeping with his mouth open and his saliva dripping.
2. A truly happy moment, especially weddings and graduation rites. But please refrain from taking a photo of a woman who has just given birth. She'll look sweaty, tired, and harrassed, and certainly not inspired. Give her time to breathe and take it all in.
3. A sad moment, as in funerals. (My dilemma is this: do we really need to look glum when we pose beside the casket? I recall a time when I was reprimanded by an aunt because I looked too cheerful for the occasion.)
4. For required documentation, for projects and experiments.
5. For the yearbook. We need to take it seriously. A high school classmate once took the photo shoot lightly and didn't care that the make-up artist was putting more powder in his face than was necessary. He looked, and still looks, like a corpse in the picture. Yearbooks, after all, are forever.

We must tolerate the camera but should not see it as an integral part of our existence. We don't need to take pictures of everything. If we have to, we can always keep the photos to ourselves.

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*I know, I know: I have a high-pitched, female-sounding voice.

2 thoughts on “When you should take pictures”

  1. Out of convenience. A barong was easier to wear. I didn't bring my own coat, and the coats available were too big for me. Ching already had her Filipiniana on. It'd be a waste to take it all off for another costume. And Marvyn insisted that I have a first lady. I'm glad you liked it. It's all Marv's idea. He can be creative director of sorts.

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