If you are documenting something, you are not able to experience it.
My father didn’t ever own a camera, mostly (I believe) because he lived by that vision – to fully experience life, you must be in it fully. Stepping back to document a moment fundamentally changes your ability to be in that moment.
And I agree – it is one of the subtle aspects of being a photographer that I enjoy mulling over in my more philosophical moments.
Experience or Document? Snap it or Live it?
In the beginning of 2012, my father entered hospice care as his cancer made him unable to walk. At the age of 88, he passed away, holding my hand.
There were many times between February and April when I thought about bringing out my camera – capturing the small moments of love and care, the crosswords, and laughing, and hand-washing, as well as the heartbreaking finality we were all facing. I thought about photo essays I have seen that dealt with the decline of a loved one, or a cancer diagnosis, or the aftermath of a tragedy.
But, ultimately, this is something that cannot be documented. Not because the documentary isn’t powerful and true- but because to put my camera between myself and my feelings is to not experience the moment.
I am grateful for the trillion moments I was able to experience with my father, perhaps particularly those last ones. He was a singularly excellent human being.
And so, as I wind up 2012, my retrospective is a bit different from my normal year-ending photo collage.
It is a exultation of being able to fully live, and allowing me, at times, to document the highlights. Thank you for an experience-rich 2012. Onward to 2013.