Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Photography Angst

A strange thing has happened to me in the past week.  I seem to have lost the urge or desire to take photos.  And so, my friends, although I have lots to blog about, I don't have a thing to show for it.  Our days are filled with thousands of sights and magic moments at every turn - unusual things that one would never see in the western hemisphere - yet I return home to our guesthouse at the end of a day with an empty SD card, and I have to wonder what has happened.

Perhaps it's because I don't have enough time?  Let me explain.  This year we decided to walk wherever we could, rather than take a tuk-tuk.  Not only does it give us an opportunity to exercise, we are able to take detours and explore, wandering down dusty side streets and through interesting little shops.  When Gordon walks, he's like a homing device, keeping his head and mind (and ears) focused on the destination. When we're on main roads, he usually walks ahead, since walking two abreast is akin to a suicidal act in Cambodian traffic.   Photography 'on the fly' just doesn't work in this situation.  I see something interesting, I stop, I try to take one or two pictures, and when I look up, Gordon is a block ahead of me, still focused on the destination, oblivious that he's left me behind.  Yelling for him to STOP doesn't seem to work.  And so, I've all but given up taking photos on our walks, at the risk of ending up alone and abandoned in a foreign country.

But there are plenty of other opportunities to take photos, like when I'm alone, for instance.    I see so many  interesting and unusual sights and situations that I know you at home would never see, and I think 'Wouldn't that be an interesting thing to 'snap' to show everyone?'.  And then I raise my camera to take a photo of these people and I put myself in their shoes, and I can't do it!  I look into their eyes and I feel guilty, like I'm invading their privacy, like I'm viewing them as 'objects', not people.  I have a confession to make.  I'm not a 'tourist' anymore.  Tourists take photos, lots of photos.   I live here now, and something inside me has snapped (like maybe one of my heartstrings?).  I have compassion for these people, and I understand how they must feel when their every move, their everyday life (no matter how different from ours) is on display and being photographed.  Kind of like being in a circus.

On occasion, I stupidly walk out the door and forget my camera.  Like yesterday afternoon when we were invited to a party at Honour Village to celebrate the first anniversary of their opening day.  It was a big fete with all 46 children and about 35 staff members and volunteers joining in.  There were hamburgers, 'hot dogs' and skewers of meat and vegetables.  Cake and fruits and soda pop.  Happy smiles, excited children dressed in their best clothes, singing and dancing.  Gordon, in his element, manned one of the grills, cooking about 100 wieners and as many skewers, while I stacked toasted hamburger buns with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, green pepper, cheese and meat, and watched everything disappear faster than I could heap them onto the platters.  Plenty of photo opportunities, and my camera was back in our room!   AARRGGHHHH!!!!

I suppose I was too busy at that party to have taken photos anyway, but earlier on that afternoon before the party, I wasn't.  And it was a time when I would have given anything to have a photographic record.  It was the first time in nine months that I'd seen the Honour Village kids, my kids..... And they rode their bicycles through the gates, and dropped their backpacks, and ran to throw their arms around me.  We looked into each others eyes with love and remembrance.  We hugged and twirled, and danced the happy dance.  Some hugged tight and snuggled and nuzzled into my side.  One boy showed me the bracelet that I'd made him last year that he'd kept, and I helped him tie it onto his wrist.  We held hands and sang songs and remembered.  And I'd have given anything at that moment to have a photo....just one photo...of that special time.

But I DO have photos, plenty of them.  They're in my head and in my heart.  It's just too bad you can't see them.


  1. Hey, kiddo, While I thoroughly enjoy the photos, this is your time with the kids do do what makes you happy. Besides, you describe everything so well that I 'picture' the scene anyway.

  2. Just continue the Blog, Dorothy.....really looking forward to imagining in my minds eye your daily adventures......

  3. I completely agree with Sandy and Scot and, in accompaniment to my complete agreement I would like to add only a little something of mischief.

    Wouldn't the devil's advocate say,

    "If you see the people you are living with taking their own photos or, even sketching events on paper or painting on canvas, as their beautiful, cultural ceremonies and festivities unfold, isn't that a sign that photos might be welcome?"


    "How will you share your photos of all the beautiful people with the beautiful people if you don't take their picture?"


    "Isn't it the opposite of 'taking' pictures if you are going to give the beautiful people copies of their photos later?"

    Anyway, isn't it also true that right after the devil has his say... it's the angels who get their way...?


  4. Hi Dodie
    It sounds like you are having the adventure of a lifetime. Enjoy it, treasure it.
    Love Rita