Many years ago, when I lived in Zimbabwe, I had several rolls of slide film that I had brought with me from the US. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel the country by road, live in villages and travel to points of interest multiple times. As a visualist, I tried to capture the essence of the people and country that I had grown to love. At that time, processing any type of film in country was very expensive and it was even more difficult to develop slide film, so I opted to wait until I returned to the US to do so. I held a keen attachment to the day when all of this beauty would again be revealed through my slides. However, before I left the country, my film rolls (more than 2 years worth of photos) were stolen, and most likely mistaken for unused film that could have been easily sold for a decent price.
While I grieved my attachment to the perceived loss, I learned much from the experience through having to create the visuals in the stories I shared. In telling the stories, the images were not static, and lived only through my expressions and in the recreations of those listening. As the years have passed, I have created many new rituals around photography and intentional choosing when I want to fully experience something and the times when I choose to document something and to be spontaneous or not. As a coach + facilitator, I have become increasingly aware of the use of cameras + recording devices in learning programs and the inevitable sharing of client photos by clients + facilitators alike. Naturally these are joyful + transformative moments, as much as a presentation of one’s work + client experiences. However, when the learner is the one taking the photos, it is curious as to what may or may not be lost in the moment. We have become increasingly dependent on our easy to use, quick access technology to capture the moments + observations of our lives. Studies that focus on the effects of photography as a means of remembering, suggest that engaging in photography may give way to a loss of presence, and may further affect our memory of the event.
As a lover of visual beauty and learning, I live in gratitude for digital photography, and I continue to choose when to engage and not. I invite you to find a time when you can intentionally choose to fully experience a moment or a learning process that does not include your camera, cell phone or other device and without an agenda beyond remaining present. Partnering with horses, I have experienced innumerable moments of beauty and what for me is sacred witnessing of the learning + healing of others. I invite you to consider gifting yourself these present + sacred moments in your learning program, as a client or facilitator by staying fully present without the distraction of technology whenever possible. Consider hiring a photographer who is not a participant, and by the nature of her role, she will be present in her art + observation. I invite you to find the sacred in your learning experiences and interactions with others, allowing your presence to be enough.