Strolling through narrow cobble stone lined streets and wide open squares of an old Czech city, I come upon a mall that opened recently near the city center. Once inside, I am transported from gothic and baroque architecture into the anonymous world of shopping centers; Apple store, Sephora, H$M, McDonald’s, shoppers milling around stopping at stands selling eyeglasses or at Starbucks to buy latte. I could be anywhere in the western world. In the corner I find machines for charging cell phones. Nobody has to worry their shopping experience will be spoiled by being temporary disconnected.
In Prague, crowds of tourist meander and pose with ancient monuments using selfie sticks. Their smartphones replaced the iPads and tablets of a few years ago. In Paris I stand in the long line to enter The Louvre. Inside I found visitors milling around making selflies with the treasures of European art, their tablets completely obscure the relatively small size of Mona Lisa from the view of people patiently waiting for their turn to admire her mysterious smile. I spend fifteen minutes in the museum and then walk out into the rain of November Paris.
Back on the street I think about the need to stay connected at all times. The desire to share experiences with others is natural but do people take the time to really experience and take in the moment? Or is the impulse to record time and share it with friends stronger than the desire to fully enjoy it? I look at my camera and wonder if my need to capture the passing interplay of light and shadow is any different. Yes, I prefer analog to digital technology. The road from pressing the shutter to making a print in the darkroom and sharing it with a viewer is longer. But do I turn on the camera too fast? A successful photograph does not just record an instant in time but expresses an emotional response to the given moment. I can communicate mood and atmosphere only when I take the time to observe and feel, to stay still.
The streets are quickly filling with evening commuters and tourists looking for dinner. I promise myself I will make sure I see with my eyes before I look through the lens and disappear in the darkening street.