PADUA, ITALY –– While touring northern Italy last week, one of the stops was Verona. The town, like New Orleans, could be known as the Crescent City for the river that makes a big bend through it but is far better recognized as the setting for the tragedy Romeo and Juliet. For all the town’s quaintness and beauty, the most popular tourist stop, by far, is the balcony where tradition, if not historical fact, says Juliet once stood. On this Saturday afternoon the place was packed with tourists. I politely moved myself to a spot where I could get a good view of the balcony, but just as I got in place, another tourist tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to get out of the way so he could take a picture. Coming toward the end of the week, when I had become increasingly obsessed with the obsession over picture-taking, I was furious and unfortunately uttered an expletive that defiled the romance of the spot.
Here’s a scoop from Europe, but it can apply to anywhere in the world: This picture-taking thing has gone way too far. I am not talking about photography, which at its highest level is an art, but rather the random and unceasing taking of snapshots. I know, people have been taking pictures on vacations for nearly a century, but the practice has gotten increasingly annoying. Here are four reasons why:
Everybody Is Doing It
There was a time when the act of taking pictures was at least limited to people who had cameras with them, and that lowered the numbers a little. Now, people have picture-taking abilities with their cell phones, smartphones, iPods and just about anything else that is digital. That means that at any crowded tourist spot just about everyone is clicking away. That is exasperating because of next reason:
Spatial Demands Have Expanded
It used to be that a person-taking a picture would hold the camera in front of one eye, peer through the viewfinder and snap. The act of taking a picture did not take much more space than that occupied by the person. Now people hold their picture-taking object at a distance, with their arms extended while going through the time-consuming need to establish an image on the screen. Each set of extended arms in a crowd creates a barrier in which the more polite people in the group, I no longer being one of them, dare not step in front of for fear of ruining someone’s precious photo. Picture-taking has created a series of boundaries with the greater the crowd meaning the more boundaries. That might not be so bad except for the next reason:
There Is No Limit
When my mom used to go on vacation, she would go to the drugstore and buy a roll of film with the capacity of maybe 20 shots on it. After the trip she would save the unfinished roll for snaps at Christmas. The pictures she did take on a trip, mostly of me on some stuffed bear, would be finally developed around Mardi Gras when it was time for another roll of film. Now with digital shooting, the number of potential shots are practically infinite with only the possibility of a depleted battery providing some discipline. Now, in one setting, hundreds of people can take thousands of shots, all while in effect blocking traffic flow among others. That leads to my last complaint.
People Are Not Taking Time To Just View the Sights
Earlier in the week I had worked myself up to the front of a taxi boat in Venice. I had hoped to marvel at the Renaissance buildings that line the canal and the pageantry of ships and gondolas. Instead, a guy and two girls were alternately taking pictures of each other at the front of the boat. The guy was completely blocking the view from the rest of us as he sat on the front rail, posing with each of the girls. Instead of seeing Venice, I was seeing him; worse yet, he wore reflective sunglasses, which meant that instead of seeing Venice, I was also seeing me. Not once did the three stop to marvel at the sights.
Let me be the first to declare that there are more vacation pictures being taken than the world, or travelers’ friends, are willing to look at. There are some moments in life that are just better to commit to memory than to click away at, and that takes no space at all.
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