If You Don’t Photograph Something, Did it Still Happen?

A philosophical musing on travel and photography:

If you’re traveling, and you experience interesting things, but you don’t take a photo of it — did it still happen?

It’s kinda similar to the idea:

If a tree falls in the forest, but there’s nobody to hear it, did it happen?

Of course it still happened. But the more interesting question is this:

What’s the significance of us experiencing something, if we don’t remember it?

Cindy meditate Vancouver film

For example in traveling, most of us travel in order to learn more about ourselves and to learn more about the rest of the world.

I also think we make photos of our travel experiences in order to better remember it. Or perhaps there’s a fear that if we don’t photograph our experiences, we will forget, or even worse; we don’t have “proof” that we actually experienced it.

For example the internet meme, “Pics or it didn’t happen” applies here.

Also, I think as photographers we have a fear of forgetting. We have “fear of forgetting” (FOF). That’s why we obsessively photograph everything we experience, eat, and take selfies with our loved ones.

But the irony is this: ask yourself–

How often do I actually go back and re-look at my old travel, food, or selfie pictures?

And another deeper question:

If I have a great experience, eat something really good, or see something super interesting, and I don’t take a photo of it– is that okay with me?

Memory is wisdom

In ancient Greek times, intelligence and wisdom was linked with memory. In today’s world with Google, we’ve discounted the skill of memory. Lots of modern education is anti-rote memory learning.

Yet, my idea is:

A life with no memories is not a life worth living.

For example Daniel Kehnamen wrote in Thinking Fast and Slow an experiment:

If you would go on a trip, but be forced at the end of your trip to swallow a pill that caused you to forget all of your memories, would you still go on the trip?

Most people would say “no”.

So in a philosophical sense, most of us think that our life is our memories. And our photos are a tangible form of our memories.

We are our memories

So once again, our memories are what make us human.

And also, ask yourself:

Does taking a photo of something make me more likely to remember it, or less likely to remember it?

Never stop shooting

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, TRAVEL NOTES. To be notified once the book is published, subscribe to ERIC KIM NEWSLETTER >


Photography Philosophy

Cindy with framed hands. Saigon, 2017

Photography Philosophy 101

Personal Photography Philosophy

Why do you make photos? Reflect in PHOTO JOURNAL: