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When is it time to put the camera down and be present to the moment?

I mean to ask this as an open question, not a rhetorical one. And it's not an either/or. It's the sort of background reflection that might be useful to inform our creative technique.

Sometimes, I personally notice things better (or at least differently) when I'm looking through a viewfinde— er, I mean, looking at a view screen. (Whew! I'm dating myself...) Other times, trying to capture a moment can distract you, even remove you from the moment itself.

What are your experiences with this? Is there a generation gap involved? Have you ever forced yourself to forego taking pictures in order to be present to others around you?

In a way, this may be more about personal electronics than about means of art-making. Is breaking out the digital camera sometimes more like pulling out the iPod or a video game or phone? Do we sometimes RECord our surroundings to amuse ourselves, because whatever we're doing isn't quite capturing our attention? Or do we RECord in order to better engage, take it in, connect?

To parse out the electronic gadget issue: Is a digital camera more potentially distracting to its user and others than, say, their sketching with pencil and paper would be? or even a film camera? (Hey, at least with those you had to be a bit more judicious about which shots you took!)

A related question would be whether it better serves an event (for lack of a better catch-all phrase) to be recorded by a participant involved in it or by a "disinterested observer", so to speak. Is the "disinterested observer" really possible? Yeah, I'm being a little vague. Probably different "events" would require different degrees of "objectivity."

If you need a more concrete example, let's take the example of a rally. I recently attended a march against police brutality, so let's picture that. Should the march be documented by one of the marchers? by someone who's not involved at all but is there to document it (e.g., a news reporter)? If I, as a marcher, break out my camera, how does it affect my ability to march in protest? You can see there are a lot of interesting subtleties. Those subtleties shift when the situation changes: a gay pride parade, a graduation, a church service, a wedding reception, a drum circle, a date, a meditative, solitary walk...

Just some questions I think are always worth considering—maybe not exactly these particular questions, but the general questions of presence and mindfulness and what part it plays in creativity and participation, especially when people come together in social settings.

Ultimately, our gadgets, recording devices, pencils, brushes, etc., are tools for our use in...not just self-expression, but real encounters, connecting with others. That means they're both secondary in a way, but also really important. Sacred, even.

Any thoughts? Artistic responses? Screen shots? ;) Just thought I'd put this out there; if you like, respond and/or discuss and/or add your own questions by making comments in the conversation below, or as separate RECords.
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