Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Happiness of the American Snapshot

I occurs to me, whilst writing another research paper on how photography has brought art to the middle class, that the American snapshot has developed a character all it's own. Fostered by the availability of cameras, the cheapness of production, and the will to document events and people in our lives that make us feel happy.

Happiness is the key factor here. I can't count the number of times relatives of mine have asked the age old question, through gales of laughter, "Where's my camera?" as one of the cousins or pets does something ridiculous. It is always happiness. Why would we want to document all the hardship in our lives? Put that in an album. Probably because when something bad happens, your first thought isn't
"Where's my camera?" its "DO WE EVEN HAVE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER!?!".

I think there's a morbid sense of humor tied into that concept. That one person who wants to photograph everything, including the bad moments in life.

"I...I think I'm having a heart attack!"
"Hold on, let me go get my camera!"

"I'm breaking up with you, but I think we should still be friends."
"Oh, hold that thought, my battery has died, I'll be right back."

Wouldn't that make an interesting album to show your kids. (Although for some of us it is an exercise in embarrassment and humiliation looking through photo albums anyways.)

"And here's me with the foreclosure notice. And on this page is that night I had the stomach flu after drinking nothing but Raspberry Vodka. And this one...oh man I'd almost forgotten about that one."

"But dad, this says PROM 2006 and it's just a picture of you in a tuxedo."

"Exactly son, exactly."

Maybe its because we remember the terrible times well enough and we have no desire to share them. I can remember a hundred times when I was either in big trouble, horrible pain, or emotional distress, yet am having a hard time coming up with nearly as many moments of pure happiness. I'm sure they were there, but it is just harder to remember them.

I remember vividly the hours of discomfort on the plane ride over to Italy, whilst the enjoyable moments are a little more blurry. Ironically I can remember every concert as if I played them yesterday.

I seem to have gotten off topic. Ah yes, snapshots. Well, I suppose the whole point of this is to not be surprised the next time you say something like, "Excuse me, I think I'm going to be sick." and I ask you to wait so I can go get my camera.

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