Most people have always said–and still say–that we “take pictures”. What is it we are “taking”, anyway? Do we strip off a thin veneer of a subject each time we snap the shutter and walk away? If millions do it to the same scene, repeatedly, will the scene itself start to fade away, desaturate, and eventually collapse into a pile of dust once enough of it has been “taken” by the snapping turtle masses?
In some cultures, the “taking” of a picture has a very real and dangerous spiritual implication–as in the idea that photographing someone’s physical manifestation can steal away a part of the soul.
In our culture, there are many folks who do not like their pictures “taken” and maybe they, too, feel an instinctive response to protect their privacy…to protect their soul.
You’ll find that now, especially after the advent of digital photography, that many speak of “capturing” an image. As in, “I captured this image of Camp Counselor Carl on his moped in a dark alley in Hoboken.”
When I first starting hearing the term, I thought it sounded rather presumptuous. I visualized Phineas P. Photographer setting a high tech trap with a special net to gather up all the relevant photons pertaining to a particular scene. (Maybe that’s not so far off, considering how digital sensors work!)
After reflecting and digesting this topic over the years, I feel like the word “capture” is probably more accurate. After all, I don’t physically “take” anything and don’t wish to. I simply want to capture a unique moment in time and preserve it, for my personal satisfaction and to show others. (On a subconscious level, maybe I also “capture” as part of a very weeny and ultimately vain attempt at immortality…the staving off of the inevitable that awaits us all once all our cells give out. But that’s a topic for another day.)
So, I am trying to drop my habit of saying, “I take pictures”. Instead, I try to use the word “capture”–along with the oh-so-useful “create”. So it might sound a stilted something like this: “I captured that wonderful scene so that I might create this artistic image that you now enjoy.”
Hmmm…it all still sounds a bit contrived, doesn’t it? Pretentious, even? Does it matter? Yes, it probably does. The words we use directly affect how we eventually internalize a concept.
What do you think?