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In the Moment

By Janice Lane Palko

When I was in high school, I was on both the yearbook and newspaper staff, and in addition to writing for them, I was also a photographer for both publications. This meant that it was my job to capture the goings on at all school events I was tasked with covering, everything from school assemblies to field day to candid shots.

Fast forward nearly 45 years later, and I now serve as a publicity chair for a women’s prayer breakfast organization. In addition to sending out notices and publicizing the meetings, it is my duty to take photos of the events and submit them to the organization’s historian.

At the last breakfast as I was sneaking around the room trying to capture the speaker in action, the women eating breakfast and socializing, and the band performing, I had a flashback to my high school years, specifically, how as soon as you pick up a camera and begin viewing events through a lens you immediately go from being a participant to an observer.

How many times have you been advised or seen postings advising you to “live in the present moment?” Unfortunately, I’ve learned that when you’re taking photos, you’re not in the present moment; you are one step removed from reality.

I love collecting photographs as much as the next person and the 18 photo albums I have on my bookshelf and the skads of photos on my phone attest to that, but I’m trying to be more judicious when it comes to taking photos.

In fact, a study by psychologist Maryanne Garry of the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, says that taking too many photos distorts how memories are made in our brains and that it undermines the way people form memories. Her findings show that because we are taking so many photos, we don’t interact with them. When we take fewer photos, we reinforce that image by looking at the photo more often and imprinting it in our brain.

Whatever the reason, it’s way more important to be present and make memories than it is to get that snapshot. So maybe that old, retort kids used to say, “Take a picture, it lasts longer” is not only snarky, but false. It’s only when we take a picture and cherish it that it has lasting value and grounds out in life.


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