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Monday, August 8, 2011

No Pictures, Please

Lately, I've been visiting a lot of abbeys, cathedrals, and churches. In most of these places, it is respectful to refrain from taking pictures. Even though most of these places are also popular tourist attractions, they are still used as places of worship, and thus barging in and taking pictures is quite rude. For many tourists, being asked to not take pictures is a very difficult request. They assume that if they have to pay and/or wait to get in, they should be privileged to take pictures, as if these churches exist solely for the purpose of photographing. Dozens of times, I've seen tourists sneak out their unnecessarily expensive Canons and Nikons, trying to snap a few shots before an usher catches them and asks them to put away their camera and please respect the holiness of the chapel. To me, it seems a little childish. Is it really that important for you to take a picture of a certain tomb at Holy Trinity Brompton? Are you really going to die if you don't get to snap a shot of the stained glass at Westminster Abbey?

In fact, since my camera's screen has died, I've really enjoyed not having to worry about taking pictures. In the first few weeks of my trip, I worried a lot about taking pictures. What if I never went to England again? Wouldn't I want pictures so I could remember my experiences here and share them with others? When I thought about this, it really stressed me out. It seemed like no matter how many pictures I took, it wasn't enough. Furthermore, I've never taken any photography classes and my camera is just a regular, run-of-the-mill digital camera, so most of my pictures looked rather amateurish. My friends would brag about their different hi-def lenses, or how they took two thousand pictures when they visited the V&A, and I felt horribly inadequate.

It wasn't until I visited a few English churches that I realized how relaxing it was for me to not worry about taking pictures. I was able to better enjoy my surroundings, and I could focus on the architecture, the art, and the ambiance of the place, rather than my inadequate photographing. And since my camera's screen broke a week or so ago, I've really come to enjoy leaving my camera in my bag. Sure, I may take a picture of something that catches my eye, or that I think is particularly interesting, but I generally take 10 or fewer pictures when I travel to a historic site, rather than 200-300 pictures. Besides, with a broken screen, I have no idea what I'm really taking a picture of anyway, so it doesn't matter.

I understand that this approach to photography isn't the best for everyone. Some people really enjoy photography, and for them it's a relaxing, fun activity which helps them feel more connected to the place they're visiting. If you're that type of person, I congratulate you. But I also know there are a lot of people out there who take pictures just so they can put them on Facebook, or because they feel lazy if they don't take pictures, or because of some other silly reason. If you are one of these people who doesn't particularly enjoy taking pictures (but still does, for some reason), I challenge you to put away your camera. Enjoy looking at different cultures through your own eyes, not a camera lens. You may miss out on a lot of Kodak moments, but you may see things that are only visible to human eyes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Avoiding "The Trunkies"

A while ago I wrote about an unforeseen setback that thoroughly derailed my project for a few weeks: losing my backpack. Today, I'm back to tell you about another one: the unfortunate and untimely death of both my camera and my laptop. On the same day.

Because apparently London isn't exciting enough by itself.

The good news is that none of my pictures on my camera or my data on my laptop were lost. And the better news is that one of my flatmates is visiting her family in Australia and won't need her laptop, so she's letting me use it. But even with all these fortuitous events occurring, my research and writing will still suffer some major setbacks.

The most difficult problem I face with my laptop dying is my flatmate asked that I only use her laptop at the flat, and not to take it with me to do research. I completely respect this, especially considering that my luck in the UK with valuables has been rather bad. However, this also means that when I go to the British Library and do research, I have no computer access, and therefore I cannot write and research at the same time. And being forced to have separate processes of writing and researching significantly slows down my progress. I'm used to going to the library, getting a huge pile of books, writing until I need to research a quote or a date, and researching until I can write again. Separating the processes adds quite a handicap.

Anyway, the sum total of all these problems are adding to another problem. Even though I have two more weeks here in England (busy days, full of research at the Library and museums and art galleries, day-trips to historical sites, and a last-minute trip to Ireland), I am more than ready to come home. I can't stop thinking about my flight home, or who I'm going to see when I get back. I'm getting "trunky," as they say.

This "trunkiness" is made worse by a number of factors:
-the aforementioned breaking of my camera and laptop, which will be replaced once I get home.
-all of my friends on their study-abroads/summer vacations/internships have returned home in the past week or so, and feel the need to tell me about how much they have missed the States.
-my sister announcing that she and her youngest child are coming out to visit when I get home.
-professors at BYU who I really need to talk to in person (emails just aren't cutting it anymore).
-wedding invites from about a bazillion friends getting married in the few weeks between my return to the States and the beginning of school.

Does anyone have ideas or remedies for getting rid of my "trunkiness"? It's not like I'm so obsessed with thoughts of home that it's impeding my research, but it's hard to enjoy my time here when my mind is a few thousand miles away. If you have any suggestions, they would be very much appreciated, and if I come up with a solution, I'll be sure to write about it.