Today my camera broke. The first problems started happening about three months ago when I pushed it off my desk while packing in a frantic rush. From then on the camera would intermittently turn on and off while in use. Through a process of trial and error I found that I was able to reduce the frequency of these problems by giving the camera a hard smack with the palm of my hand. However, after several months of this method the frequency of this turn on/turn off condition began to increase severely. These mechanical epileptic fits started to get on my nerves and in my increased frustration I started to use my camera rarely or not at all. It surprised me how frequently I found myself thinking of taking a picture, only to realize that by the time I got my blinking stuttering camera to work both the picture and my enjoyment of the scene would have completely dissipated. We spend so much of our lives taking quick, cheap, digital pictures that I fear we spend far more time fretting over taking pictures than actually having the fun those pictures are supposed to represent.
Today I was standing in front of an immense tower in Berlin and I was desperately trying to take a picture of my friend with the tower in the background. The camera was doing it’s usual stuttering on/off behavior and in those few seconds I lost my patience with this little digital toy. I gave it a hard smack on the ground to to try to free it from it’s convulsions and in my anger completely shattered the LCD screen on the back of it. It was through that quick act of violence that I gained a certain type of freedom. No longer was I forced to reach into my bag every time I was in awe or every time me and my buddies were having a good time. There was one less chain in my life and without that every step I take is lighter and lighter. But with the loss of my burden also came the loss of the countless pictures I could have snapped with it. As I walked by countless majestic old buildings in Berlin I thought of all the pictures I would never share with my friends and family. I though of all those memories encoded in JPEG form with bits that will never exist. But humans have shared experience with each other for millenia before photography and I can keep those potential memories in other ways.
I’m here, now, in a hostel situated in the center of Berlin. There is a hubbub of voices all around me and the song “Rebel, Rebel” is playing over the top of that multitude of unintelligible languages. This hostel, the Citystay Mitte, is a surprisingly new and clean place. There are orange and red shades over the lights behind the bar, which, by the way, is stocked with a variety of drinks at relatively low prices. That, plus the warm decor and the large clean rooms add up to the best hostel I have ever stayed in. Once I’m done writing this I think I’ll sidle up to the bar and start a conversation with the attractive multicultural group of people over there.
However, I’m getting a bit sidetracked. The point of all this is that, yes, digital cameras are nice, but sometimes I feel they are more burden than boon. Most of the time you’re better off with words. Yes, a picture may be worth a thousand words, but tell me the last picture you felt was worth an evening telling stories and exchanging advice with a friend. So what I’m telling you, my friend, is that from now on I’m going to do my best to give you some unadulterated words and I’ll let you be the judge of which medium is more suitable.