Sunday, March 20, 2016

"For posterity" overdrive

I've always been a documenter. Even as a kid using film, I always had a camera with me. I spent so much money getting photos printed and resized and giving them away and even taking orders from friends. I had, at one point, boxes and boxes of photos that my mom begged me to sort through and put into albums. Even then, I tried to be selective. Because of the limitations of the analog film roll you could only take twenty-four or thirty-six shots at a time. Now we can easily take dozens of photos of a meal, hundreds of any birthday party or night out, and thousands on vacation.

My tendency to document went into overdrive with digital cameras and then phone cameras. It sometimes bugs me that I'm now one of the cliche people who take photos of their food and extensively of concerts and museum visits or even plane rides. Which is weird because I've always had this side to me. (Side note: "Seflies" before they were called selfies, with Broadway celebrities and in front of beatiful paintings because there were no other tourists around to ask to take my photo? Been doing that since the aught's. And sort of not embarrased about it?) Granted, none of my old almbus include photos of dishes or drinks or coffee, but now I find myself both going into posterity overview, and questioning the habit at the same time.

I've been thinking about this through a concert lens. I've seen three this past month.

Most recently I've gotten to fulfill a music dream. Before I discovered Janet and Mariah the music of my childhood consisted of Disney musicals, and my parents' tape and then CD collection. We had a classic Broadway selection —  Les Miz, Phantom, Miss Saigon, etc. — lyrics I memorized before I knew they were about identity theft, severe mental illness and prostitution. We had several volumes from a Classic Experience series. There was a lot of jazz, the Marsalises being my favorite. And then we had a revered pair of John Williams CDs. Because we were trained in many of the movie classics, he was a favorite and beloved in our house.

I've seen promotions for the live verison of some of those very albums — John Williams plays his famous music scores with the Boston Pops Orchestra. This has been on the bucket list. When it was advertised that that a symphonic concert was coming to Singapore featuring his music, I was over 100% board. I booked tickets and couldn't wait.

The concert opened with the chilling and masterful two-note Jaws signature. Then they launched into the classic Star Wars theme which I was finally hearing live. It was glorious. They played music from Jurassic Park, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and more Star Wars. They even did three pieces from Harry Potter. I hadn't particularly noted the score but was thrilled by the live verison (cue Hedwig's Theme). I found my eyes darting across the stage, watching for which instruments were playing, the violins leading one moment, then the brass section, or the wind pipes, and then everybody! The same troupe could go from the scary beach to 1920s Japan and then to a galaxy far, far way, and the in the next number Isla Nublar.

This has been a delightful concert month. The Stars (an all-time favorite) and Bon Iver have also been to Singapore in the last few weeks and I gotten to see them both.

At concerts now, I am always compelled to take my phone out and start shooting. I leave with pages and pages of photos on my phone, most of which I never look at again. The funny thing is, I get really annoyed when people in front of me keep taking photos and videos. The worst are the people with selfie sticks or Go Pro's, who hold their cameras up in the air obstructing your view. And ruining your own photos.


I have stores of photos of different concerts. They're all pretty crappy because I'm never in the front row. However when I find one that is different enough or better-composed I can edit them enough to share on Facebook or Instragram. But the whole haul is really tough to sort through becuase they all look the same. I've taken some videos too, most of which I've never re-watched.

A few dynamics and motiavtions that could be going on.
// Susataining an emerging Attention Deficit Disorder? In which real focus on the action is not possible.
// An addiction to capturing a moment and saving it for posterity because it is a unique live moment?
// An over-obsession with capturing a compelling-enough image to share? #blessed

This relates to a previous piece on the post-digital. The term might be limited and too conceptual, but I wonder what the emerging reality will be once we've settled in to all this technology. Will the rate of innovation ever slow down again? One reaction seems to have been the re-emergence of the heightened, live, physical, visceral experience that will never happen again. Which has always been the appeal of live theater and music. However there is this weird dynamic now where we'll go to a live concert rather than stay home and stare at a screen, only to obstruct our own experience and use a screen to live-document it.

This is on my mind because I think we have to be mindful of the behavior created through what is only going to be an increasing attachment to technology. It's always in our hands now, and soon it will be all throughout our homes, cars, washing machines, clothes, offices, cities. I wonder if we'll ever find a way of being that we can hold on to that has nothing to do with technology?

In the meantime here is to managing concert clicks and camera use.


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