Tuesday, July 22, 2008


The DeathSet rocking Whartscape on Saturday. The show was well documented...

This past Saturday I attended the Whartscape concert in Baltimore's Station North neighborhood, sponsored by Wham City. The event took place in a parking lot off of a busy city street. Three stages hosted a round-robin of music and the place was packed in spite of the stifling heat. A few brave souls rose above the hot asphalt to surf the crowd, but the most prevalent thing to rise above the concertgoers was the camera. Digital cameras, camera phones, camcorders. Everywhere. The Flickerazzie were out in force. This is the name I've given to all those camera-wielding friends (and strangers) who feel the need to catalogue every living, breathing moment and post it to their Flicker page. And now that Getty is cherrypicking images to purchase off of Flicker, I imagine it will only get worse.

I read an interview a few years back with Bjork, where she talked about her momentary obsession with ambient noise. She carried a digital recorder everywhere, capturing hundreds of hours of sound from daily life that she thought she might later use in her music. At some point, she stopped. The incessant cataloguing was taking toll on her creative process. Rather than fuel her music, it became debilitating. She realized that if something had value, if it had true staying power, it would stick with her and she could call upon it later.

This guy climbed the fence and balanced against barbed wire to take photos. Several times. I sure hope he was paid to do that.

Back at ya.

I think about that interview as I watch people around me spend more time capturing their lives than living them. The present dissipates when you put a camera between you and what's happening. You are no longer living and experiencing. Friends, environment, experience, become fodder for Flicker, they become instant nostalgia. You're not thinking about the moment, you're thinking about how that moment will be read by others. What propels us to do this? What makes us want to become tourists in our own lives?

A picture I took at the Louvre in Paris: The crowd "experiencing" the Mona Lisa.

A note added later:

My father just sent me a great quote from Russell Baker that relates to this post. Baker wrote, "Life is always walking up to us and saying, 'Come on in, the living's fine,' and what do we do? Back off and take its picture."