LYON: Capturing moments while staying in them


Opinions Column: London by Knight


When I see an interesting or just plain pretty sight, my first instinct is to appreciate it. I let the sight, the composition of my surroundings, the colors and the daylight flood over me as I take it all in. I feel this every time I go somewhere new, savoring Venice's canals and architecture and Paris's Eiffel Tower and mood. I feel it every single time I'm wandering by the River Thames and my eyes blink, opening to focus on the structure of London's Elizabeth Tower. Once I have had all my initial enjoyment, my next instinct is to capture a photo of it all.

However, simply documenting moments with an iPhone is the smallest bit controversial. I mean, as controversial as travel photography to update an Instagram account can be. Friends and strangers alike can always be quick to stand on an elevated piece of land and begin voicing their opinions, denouncing that artificial clicking noise in the direction of a historic European landmark or sometimes a (completely delicious) Nutella crepe or the standard avocado toast.

In the past, I was one of those people who thought that documenting moments was silly, but I now think a bit differently. I have developed an appreciation for it. I think it's okay to document things both beautiful and kind of silly — a photo has the power to preserve a moment, and a person should be able to preserve the moments they'd like to.

I personally enjoy the ability that snapping photos afford me to take in my surroundings and to keep the photo as a kind reminder that I was there, I really saw this breathtaking sight and, yes, it actually happened. I also get to share these little memories with my family and friends, both via a quick text message and on a variety of social media platforms. I get to include the photos in my online scrapbook for my memories and for people I care about to see.

A problem arises when enamored by the sights and intent on remembering them, it's far too easy to keep on snapping and snapping. That is, unless one's phone is low on memory, and therefore it becomes necessary (and insufferable) to economize photo taking. But for a lot of us, it's too easy to keep going with the photo taking habit and end up with too many shots of an experience and not enough memories. At points, I've experienced this myself by being abroad and feeling a particular duty at the urges of my friends and family members to "take pictures!" I've additionally seen this in others.

Like all things in life, it is important to find a balance. I realized this, going from demonizing photo taking to taking far too many photos of Amsterdam's canals that mostly ended up deleted. Recently, I have decided that if a moment is moving or just cute, and I feel like it must be captured, then it probably should be captured. I shouldn't take photos aimlessly, and I should value quality memories above constant hand-to-phone interaction.

Once this balance is found, it's so much easier to enjoy the moments as they happen, while keeping a delightful collection of memories to be savored and remembered for years to follow. It is not necessary to sit on our photo taking instincts after we've appreciated a sight. We shouldn't deny ourselves this, as we can preserve our moments and share with others just with snapping a picture. We should aim to make sure the moments are meaningful to us, we should aim to make sure they're all moments worth capturing.

Abigail Lyon is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in economics and theater arts. Her column, “London by Knight,” runs on alternate Thursdays.


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Abigail Lyon

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