It is fair to say that I made one of the worst mistakes I have made in a while last week. When we were trying to determine what to do for New Year’s Eve my girlfriend (actually, she is my fiancé’ now, I must get used to saying that) asked if we could go to the city to watch the fireworks at midnight. Without giving the gravity of the question anywhere near enough thought I foolishly said yes. So off we went with approximately 1.5 million other people to the harbour foreshore to watch the evening’s festivities.
Despite my negativity towards heading into the city to watch the fireworks display I would like to point out that I am a big fan of Sydney’s New Year’s Fireworks in principle. We do the best New Year’s show in the entire world, this point is not debatable. I don’t care what city you live in and how impressive you think your little fireworks show is, ours is better.
Whilst I am a big fan of the event in principle there are few things that I despise more than going out with the masses of people and watching them live. Be it the sitting down in a tight uncomfortable area for four hours to watch a 10 minute firework display, being sandwiched like a sardine against an array of random strangers, or the moron brigade who are convinced that the only way you can enjoy anything in life is by either drinking copious amounts of alcohol, taking large quantities of illicit drugs, starting fights or if they are lucky enough combining all or some of these activities together.
All of these issues rile me up as they should any warm blooded human, however, there was another issue that emerged over the evening that bothered me even more than those mentioned! That is the use of phone cameras, well more accurately, the over use of phone cameras! When did we all decide that 7 million photos of an event that we will never look at are far more important than actually enjoying the event live?
We set up for the evening at the corner of George St and Hickson Rd in the Rocks, those familiar with the area well will know that the aforementioned moron brigade can often be found in these parts. Whilst we couldn’t see the entire foreshore from here it has a fantastic view of the Harbour Bridge which is the best we could hope for considering we were only prepared to get there four hours before the show started. The road is on a slight hill so everybody can more or less see everything regardless of their size, well that is what we thought until midnight came and the fireworks began. At that moment every person in front of us got their phones out of their pocket, held them above their heads and feverishly began clicking away, taking photos of either the Harbour Bride or for those that had drunk a little too much, the sky next to the Harbour Bridge.
No longer could we see the bridge or the firework displays, just a sea of mobile phones being waved about in front of us and every single person there not looking at the fireworks but instead looking up at their camera to ensure they were getting a nice shot. If we were lucky somebody would hold their camera still for long enough that we could catch a glimpse of the fireworks through their screens but more often than not the photos that they would be taking would be completely filled with the cameras in front of them. The fireworks were merely an event taking place beyond the sea of cameras.
Whether you were at Sydney’s New Year’s Eve festivities or not I am sure you have been in a situation where either you or someone you know has done this. Be it scenery, a sporting event or a major spectacle we have developed an obsession for taking an obscene amount of photos. Instead of watching things on television at home we leave the house, travel, pay money and then put a small tv to our face and watch the event through that instead of the larger one we left at home.
Personally, I have never understood that obsession people have with taking pictures. Generally speaking, you need a court order to get me into a photo and I have a hard enough time remembering to turn up to an event let alone remembering to photograph it. I am far more interested in enjoying a moment live and if I must get a picture of it to treasure I would rather fork out the 50 cents required to buy a post card which has a picture on it that was taken with a top quality camera by somebody with at least a modicum of artistic talent.
In contrast, my girlfriend, sorry, my fiancé’ is obsessed with taking photos. This may just be the genetics of her Asian background. If there is a plate of food being served or a leaf rustling in the wind she must get a couple of hundred photos to document the occasion. I am fairly confident this is a cultural thing as over the years when more and more of her friends have become my friends on Facebook I have noticed a significant increase in the amount of photos of food that appear on my news feed. I have an Italian background. We have always been far more interested in eating food than we are in photographing it.
Getting back to New Year’s Eve, It is mind boggling to think of how many photos were taken by the 1.5 million people at the Sydney Harbour foreshore over that 10 minute period. Looking at how quickly people around me were taking photos I don’t think that it would be unrealistic to assign an average of 20 photos per person. That means about 30 million photos were taken over that period. How many of these photos have actually been looked at and how many of them were actually more enjoyable to view than watching the event live would have been? If you want to take one or two photos of you at a specific place as a momento or as some form of proof that you were actually there then that is fine but next time you go to an event, try something different. Put the camera down and actually experience the event live. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it! If not, there are always postcards you can buy.