There is an interesting discussion (read collection of often hilarious abuse) on lightstalkers at the moment about the idea of non-photography day. This event scheduled for July the 17th this year was dreamed up by a Brighton-based artist Becca Bland (now there`s an unfortunate name) in 2006. She is urging people not to take photographs on that day and instead live the real, unmediated experience. She apparently had a bad experience in Thailand with travelling companions who spent there whole time taking photographs and thinks we are all too addicted to taking images of all and every aspect of our lives.
While I sympathise with her idea that people seem to look at the world through a viewfinder sometimes she is just being plain silly with this day. Photography is not a vice it is one of the worlds most powerful tools for quickly relating an experience to a wider audience: be that holiday snapshots, a fashion image, a portrait or iconic reportage. Let`s look first at her main bugbear: snapshots. Holiday pics ARE memories to be enjoyed. They are often taken as part of the whole experience of being in a place: the swapping of cameras, the pose, the arguing about fingers on lenses. angles and peace signs above heads infront of badly captured sunset; it is these stories that accompany the later show that you listen to, the photos pressed in your fingers just an excuse to tell them. True people sometimes pointlessly point a camera at things but they are not professional they often shoot only one frame and get on with enjoying the experience fully. As for the images that tell us things we wouldn`t otherwise know how can she think such things are unworthy? Even snapshots make the news now, from bombings in London to Abu Ghraib prison. As powerful as they can be it is still the photojournalist`s professional eye that can create images which really changes the world. Think of the image of the nalpalm attack in Vietnam with the little girl running naked down the road by Nick Ut that helped end that war, the 9-11 pictures of James Nachtway that galvanised a nation out of grief, the portrait of Che Guevara by Alberto Corda that made revolution and revolutionaries sexy.
So by all means leave your camera at home if you wish and look at the world with real eyes. I won`t be, I feel that photography has too much to offer to not allow it to do the job it does so well. I don`t know about you but when I go somewhere I do not spend all my waking hours looking through a lens, even if I am working as a photographer there, no I experience the place, the event, the feeling completely and that I believe helps me take better pictures. I am not probably going to take a picture that shakes the world that day, but who knows? The most amazing thing could happen right in front of me and I`d feel pretty fucking stupid if I didn`t have my camera with me because I wanted to make a point. We often miss great photos at the best of times, let alone choosing a day to do it. Daft.