The 5% Approach
I haven’t been getting out very much lately. My new job has me traveling a lot. So when I finally come home, I just want to be home. I spend up to 18 days a month living in hotels, eating out for every single meal, and not seeing my wife. So when I’m home, I JUST WANT TO BE AT HOME. I want to spend time with my wife, I want to eat home-cooked meals, and I just want to sleep in my own bed. I don’t get out much. I know that’s my choice, but I should think that you would understand why.
Like a lot of you reading this, I enjoy photography. I enjoy the process. I enjoy the seeking out of new places, new faces, and maybe some abandoned spaces. I love getting all of these new photos and sitting on my couch while my wife watches TV, and just start editing away with my iPhone. I know that if I was smart I would just learn Photoshop finally and do all of my photo editing on my computer. But there’s something about sitting comfortably on my couch playing with all of the different photo editing apps on my phone. I love the entire process. And I’ve gotten used to this process over the past year. There was a long period of time there that I was snapping anywhere from 10-50 pictures a day, every single day. I got used to this routine of picture taking followed by picture editing on the couch. But these days, I don’t have that anymore. My life has turned completely upside-down. And I wonder sometimes if it has been a good change.
In an attempt to feel normal a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to edit some pictures while sitting on the couch. I went through the last 1,000 or so pictures on my iPhone’s “Camera Roll,” but nothing really grabbed my eye. Through a conversation that I had had previously that week, I was reminded of my trips to Israel back in 2005 and 2007. Which drew me in to the pictures I had taken back then. So I decided to find those old pictures from the archive and upload them to the iPhone. Maybe I could bring some of those old pictures back to life. It took me a little while to find them in the external hard drive, I even had a split second panic attack when I thought that they had been deleted. Thankfully, they had not. Once found, I promptly uploaded all 726 photos. That number surprised me. 726? Really? You see, prior to my trips to Israel, I didn’t take pictures. Photography seemed complicated, I didn’t care that much to learn it, and I figured there would always be a thousand more people better at it than I was, so why bother? I remember my trips to Israel, I could hardly remember taking any pictures at all. So to have 726 was quite astonishing to me. What little gems might there be inside all of these photos? As I started to go through them, I got upset. It was nothing but pictures of me and all of the friends I had made. Sure there were pictures of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, or Masada… But all of those pictures had me posing in front of them! I was so angry. I missed out on some golden photo opportunities, to take pictures of memories instead… Whoops. Therein lies this majestic problem. What happened to all of my memories?
Since I first downloaded Instagram well over a year ago, I have taken thousands upon thousands of photos. Let’s go ahead and guess what percentage has pictures of me or pictures of my wife, or heck, even pictures of my wife and I together… I’d say less than 5%. Well, it seemed pretty evident in my Israel pictures that I had had the reverse percentage. I probably had 95% pictures of me with new friends or just pictures of friends. What happened? What has happened inside of me that I no longer take the kind of picture that features loved ones? That’s what normal people do! They take pictures of themselves in front of the Grand Canyon, or Mt. Rushmore, or even a stupid restaurant that they enjoyed! But what would I do? I’d take pictures of all those things, minus the people and then heavily saturate it in apps. Oh, my, what has happened here? I have hardly any memories to show for in the last year and a half. I’ve gone to cool places in the last year, but I have next to no proof that I or my wife were even there. Because I failed to take a picture just for memory sake. I was too busy trying to find a “cool shot,” rather than just documenting the trip like most people do.
I explained this little realization of mine to my wife while sitting there on the couch. She in no way acted surprised. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s been on her mind for awhile now. She knew that I hardly ever took pictures of her anymore. There was a period of time before photography got a hold of me where I would primarily only shoot pictures of my wife. So of course she understood my “new” realization. Thankfully, she’s an amazing wife and wasn’t going to hold it against me. She just said that now that I was aware of what was going on to go back to taking some pictures now and again of the two of us. She likes those kinds of pictures. She is much quicker to want to print out a picture of the two of us somewhere, rather than my most “popular” picture on Instagram. My wife is normal. She enjoys surrounding herself with memories. I certainly can’t find fault in that.
I know that for some of you reading this, this may not be something you deal with at all. You may have been smart enough to make sure that you use your artistic ability to capture stills of memories of you and your friends & family, while still capturing the scenery behind them. Obviously, I didn’t take that approach. There is just something so perfect about a picture of people in front of the destination they came to see. It’s americana. It’s classy. It’s what we should remember to do. Because there might be a good chance that for those around you that know you love to take pictures, they might be thinking things like my wife was, “Why doesn’t he ever take pictures of us anymore?” Take it or leave it. But if you’ve got a small percentage of pictures on your Camera Roll of you and your loved ones, I would suggest snagging a few more memories and hanging those on your wall instead.