DEBATE: Should You Take a Lot of Pictures While Traveling? A Debate Between Brent and Michael
Michael loves taking pictures on the road, and Brent hates it. Can this relationship be saved?
You’re going to love this idea, but since we’re already always arguing about how often you take pictures as we travel, I figured we could take the debate public and get some newsletter content out of it.
So let’s air our dirty laundry, shall we?
Here’s the background for our readers. You and I have been full-time nomads for four years. And about three and a half years ago, you discovered a newfound love for photography.
Enter Instagram. Suddenly, you had an outlet for your photos, and you also started receiving lots of positive feedback — deservedly, of course! Your photos are generally awesome.
And now, of course, we’re using all your great photos here in our newsletters.
But there’s tension. I get tired of stopping all the time so you can take pictures. Worse, posing for photos often makes me feel self-conscious, taking me out of the moment.
Obviously, your taking some photos is absolutely fine. We’re married, but we’re also individuals, with individual interests and sensibilities. You should be allowed to maneuver through the world however you see fit.
Within reason. At some point, the things we do affect each other. You love taking photos, and I don’t.
But even this is okay! Part of being married means making compromises for the other person. God knows I’ve dragged you to enough kitschy amusements parks over the years — one of my big loves.
In general, I think you try to be very considerate of my discomfort — just like I hope I’ve tried to be considerate of your taking photos.
So what are we debating here? Two interesting things, I think:
How much is too much? What’s the right balance of taking-photos vs. not-taking-photos in our relationship?
And the greater issue, which is more relevant to our readers: Does taking photographs add to or detract from the travel experience?
Ultimately, there is no “right” and “wrong” answer to any of this.
But it might still be fun for us to discuss.
Great to hear from you! It’s been sixty seconds since you went out onto the porch. I hope you’re having a wonderful time out there.
I read what you wrote above, and I think for our busiest readers the TL:DR of your intro can be boiled down to: “Your photos are generally awesome!”
Wow, thanks! And thanks for suggesting this topic! I’m sure our readers found it very informative.
Okay, fine. I guess there might be more to be said.
So on to your two questions.
How much is too much? What’s the right balance of taking-photos vs. not-taking-photos in our relationship?
I don’t think there is one answer to this, because I think it can change from day to day or from circumstance to circumstance.
My approach now to keep your head from imploding is two-fold.
Firstly, I now try to take as few pics as possible when out with you, because I know you really don’t enjoy it. Which I guess is my way of saying the right balance is the one that causes the person objecting the least amount of discomfort.
It’s like your love of old movies. Generally, I’m not a fan, so I know you mostly don’t suggest we watch Whatever Happened to My Fair Lady and It’s a Wonderful Twelve Angry Men on Sunset Boulevard for the six thousandth time.
We both make compromises.
The second part of my approach is that I try to let you when know when I’m going out specifically to take pictures. Then you can either join me or not. I also often go out early in the mornings before you get up, so that it doesn’t infringe on our day at all.
Now for point number two: Does taking photographs add to or detract from the travel experience?
I think this completely depends on the person.
For me, the answer is very straight-forward: Taking pics has added an incredible amount to my travel experience.
Photography has pushed me to pay so much more attention to the places we visit and the things we do. In almost every place we live, I now get up early and go exploring to take pictures. I discover so many things I otherwise probably would have missed.
For instance, on our walk this morning, I showed you a sculpture of a man wearing an old-fashioned swimsuit alongside Lake Balaton, where we’re currently living in Hungary.
I guarantee that before taking up photography, I barely would’ve given this sculpture a glance. But because I did take a picture, I stopped to read the inscription and learned the man’s name was Ferenc Csik and he not only won a gold medal in swimming in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and went on to become a medical doctor. Tragically, he died only nine years later in WWII, helping a wounded man during an air raid.
So, yay, photography for helping me learn something new!
I have a lot more to say on this topic, but I don’t want to hog all of the time.
Now it’s your turn to answer those questions!
Yes, we’re both so mature about all this, aren’t we? So thoughtful and considerate to each other.
Relationship-wise, I guess we have come to a pretty good compromise. But since you gave yourself so much credit, can I give myself a little now too?
I think one key to our not murdering each other over this issue — so far — is that when I feel frustrated and overwhelmed by Too Many Photos, I speak up and say, “Hey, how about we don’t take any more pictures for a while?”
And to your great credit, you listen, and we go on with our day, photo-free.
Now I’ll give you even more credit: it is sometimes nice to have those photos after-the-fact. I occasionally look at our Instagram feed and think, “Oh! I’d forgotten all about that great day we had.”
That said, if it were entirely up to me, the perfect amount of photos while we’re out together still might be, well, zero.
That’s because I hate having to stop everything to pose. I hate picking destinations based on their photo-potential. I hate when we’re together but it feels like you’re off in your own little world, looking for photo opportunities — and I don’t have your full attention.
And honestly? I also hate that I’m keeping you from doing something that so obviously gives you Great Joy. It makes me feel like the Grinch That Stole Christmas stomping on a beautiful butterfly.
Alas, for me, the Great Joy of travel is being in the moment. If I’m truly in the travel zone, the past and the future do not exist, just the wonder of where I am and who I’m with, marveling at the sheer beauty of the world around me and the people who inhabit it.
Unfortunately, this feeling is fleeting. Sometimes my feet ache, or I make the incredibly stupid mistake of looking at my phone, or I’m tired and cranky and just want to go home and marathon Xena: Warrior Princess.
I have to remind myself of the point of travel — to make a real effort to try to stay in the moment. But still, the closer I get to that ideal, the better the experience is.
Unfortunately, for me, photography exists in direct opposition to all that. It takes me out of the moment to stop and do it, and also because then I’m imagining how I’ll look in the photo. And while I sometimes like seeing old photos, when I look at new ones, I often think, Oh, God, do I really look that old? And, From this moment on in my life, I will never again turn profile!
And in 2021, it’s almost impossible to take a photo and then not think: What will people think of this photo? How many likes will it get? How impressed will people be that we’re living this crazy, romantic, digital nomad life?
But again, as Ursula, the villain in The Little Mermaid, says, “Life’s full of tough choices, innit?!”
The truth is, the other thing that gives me Great Joy in travel is doing it with you. So I’ll happily make some sacrifices so I can keep doing that, as long as humanly possible.
P.S. Your photos are awesome. And how lucky are we to be living on Lake Balaton right now?
P.P.S. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is just one of many fantastic old movies that you never would have watched — and loved — without me forcing you. Just admit it!
Hey, Brent. So good of you to write back!
Once again, let me nutshell your section for our busiest readers: Michael is thoughtful and considerate, making lots of great points. Also, a beautiful butterfly.
It’s interesting that you say your perfect world is zero photos. Because my perfect world actually is not endless photos.
That’s because I acknowledge there is an element of truth to what you say. It’s not exactly that taking pictures takes me “out of the moment.” But it’s true the moments I have taking pictures are not exactly the same kind as if I weren’t taking photos.
In Budapest, we visited the Terror House, which is part museum/part memorial to the thousands of Hungarians tortured and murdered during the fascist and communist regimes that terrorized the country during the second half of the 20th century.
One of the first things they tell you when you walk into the exhibit is that pictures are strictly forbidden. The woman who warns you not to take photos is working in the right place, because she definitely knows a thing or two about instilling terror!
I admit to at first having felt very frustrated by that rule, because the Terror House is an incredible place.
But because I couldn’t take photos, I spent a great deal of time absorbing the whole experience. It was informative and incredibly moving, and I probably would have missed out on that had I been taking photos.
Now, dear Brent, before you cry “AHA! VICTORY IS MINE!” I’ll just add that one of the guiding principle’s of my life is that everything is pluses and minuses.
So, yes, there are minuses to taking photos. But I also think there are minuses to not taking photos.
Not having a record of what we’ve done, as you say.
Also, while you might be trying to live in the moment, you yourself admit that you frequently get distracted by your phone. You also spend a great deal of time discussing the latest outrage you’ve read online.
Meanwhile, because I’m so interested in taking pictures, I am in fact paying a great deal of attention to where we actually are and what we are doing.
Would it be even better for me if I was paying attention for no other reason than to simply experience the world around me?
But we are all imperfect creatures. Me, especially. So all I will say in conclusion is that for me taking photos of our travels has been an absolute plus, and I happily accept the minuses (except you being unhappy, of course).
Besides, if I wasn’t taking pictures, I think our newsletters might be slightly less colorful.
Oh, one final word in my defense: I don’t think I choose the places I want to visit based on how photogenic they are. Or at least not mostly.
Sure, when we went to Budapest, I definitely wanted to get a good pic of the Hungarian Parliament Building. But photography has taught me the best photos are a) the ones you don’t plan for, and b) often in the most unexpected places. (See: the backstreets of Istanbul.)
I’ll give you the last word in this little debate of ours.
Your adoring and ever loving husband who is sorry he ever takes you out of the moment,
P.S. Wear your nice shirt when we meet later. I have an idea for an awesome photo.
P. P.S. Re: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? I will admit that, since you made me watch that movie, I now love saying to you, “But you did, Blanche! You did!”
Great. The take-away for most of our readers will now be that Brent and Michael are basically Jane and Blanche Hudson is Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.
Which, uh, is not entirely inaccurate.
Incidentally, I’m fully aware that ninety percent of our readers under the age of fifty have no idea what movie we’re even talking about. And it’s probably one hundred percent of our non-gay readers.
But they should! I defy anyone to watch Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, even people who hate old movies, and not say, “Wow, that’s a fantastic flick! And man, that Bette Davis is a truly amazing actress.” The backstory — about co-stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford being polar opposites in almost every way in real life, and being forced to work together despite hating each other — is almost as interesting as the movie. It was the subject of the recent FX drama miniseries: Feud: Bette and Joan.
But I digress.
Thanks for hashing out this topic with me! I really do love that you’ve discovered something that gives you such joy. And I completely agree that you’ve made our newsletters look a thousand times better.
Your devoted but impatient husband,
P.S. You wear a nice shirt tonight too. I think you should look good during your burial.
Ah, this made me laugh long and hard. I also have a mix of opinions and agree with both of you to a certain extent. If I ask my main travel companion, my 11-year-old son, he would point to the Japanese cherry blossom incident. A few years ago in Kyoto, he had to place a ban on me taking any more cherry blossom pictures because it was really starting to interfere with his enjoyment of the day. Oops ...
My wife and I have a similar conflict. I tend toward Team Brent. Worrying about photos and framing and posing brings me out of the experience. I'll take a few photos, but I'm more likely to read the plaque and notice the statue without a camera than with.
My wife loves taking photos. I think the biggest contention for us is whether we should be in the photos or not. She loves posing for them and documenting her presence at a place. And she always wants me to, or at least asks me if I want to, pose in a photo. I don't feel the need to have photos of myself and feel that I'm less interesting than the thing I would capture in a photo.
The next biggest is how much time and attention should be spent on photography. I feel her photo urges favor preservation over presence.
We find a balance. I pose a bit. She often listens when I say it's too much.
But the tug of war persists.