I love The Lonely Planet. Before any trip I’ve ever had, I’ve searched their website for a city guide, and if they haven’t had it, I’ve unenthusiastically gone to TripAdvisor. Travel 2.0 has helped my life, and even The Lonely Planet and Google Maps leaves me lost in paradise. What I find more impactful is the role of social media in my travel. If I’m ever bored, I check Instagram. It’s my go-to, and I can spend literally hours on it, watching Instagram Stories and scrolling through my feed, then probably stalking some famous photographer, which ends up in an awareness of my own feed and what content I could add that would possibly qualify me as a photographer or artist or whatever I feel like I want to be that day.
When I travel, I either take photos, of literally everything or nothing at all. I’m taking a photojournalism class, which requires me to be an observer of where I am and the stories around me. But I find it difficult to exit that mindset, a way of experiencing your place and an interaction that seems to never stop once started. I took a trip to Naples with my class, and found myself taking photos of nearly everything slightly interesting, ending up with nearly a thousand photos of duplicates of the same thing. Toward the end of the trip I remember what a high school teacher told me, that experiencing things through the screen of a phone is no way to live. Although you can relive everything in its original glory later on, have you even experienced it in the first place?
Capturing a moment is wonderful, that’s why we all do it. That’s why every update of the iPhone includes a better camera. That’s why social media is on the rise, and why I’m so interested in media images. But it’s moments when things click (and not that iPhone shutter sound) that never happen when my camera is out. During this past Naples trip, I put my phone in Airplane mode, stashed my camera in my bag, and watched the sunset from our little bus window, with its cold orange curtains and sleepy silence. It was during that moment I feel as though I was able to discover Naples, to lift its veil and interrupt my click-happy mindset to interact with the space before me. I watched the sun explore the crevices of the city for me, as though I was no longer searching for the truest, best images of Naples, but instead they were presenting themselves to me. Of course, I had to snap a picture eventually of what was unfolding, but for a while I was left alone with the sun and the world and my headphones.
There’s a value in observing your world not preoccupied with the process of doing so. It is one thing to experience a moment, then snap a picture. But as a photographer, even an amateur one, there is a decision to be made: Do you try to find the shot or do you wait for it? If you wait, it just might never come, and then what? It’s this I find myself grappling with here in Florence, as both a self-proclaimed present person but also aspiring media creative.