36 unshowered hours after leaving Chiloé, I was bus bound once again, having just left Santiago for my new destination of Mendoza. I’d already finished the complementary little Styrofoam cup of coffee provided just before bus-bound-boredom usually hits one, when it became apparent that boredom wasn’t going to be a factor in this particular trip.
We were hurtling down Chile’s Route 60 towards the Argentina crossing, when suddenly the wonder that is the Andes popped up over the expansive highway in front of us (remember that the smog hanging like a post-Mexican-dinner-fart over Santiago means that it’s possible to not even notice that one of the most impressive mountain ranges is near you! More on that here). Within seconds, I’d whipped out my camera and snapped a few million shots, using the backrest of the grumpy man in front of me as a makeshift tripod.
This first vision was only the start of two hours of epic scenic madness seemingly provided for our personal entertainment as we crossed into Argentina. My camera’s (post edition) count of several dozen photos attests to that fact.
A family across the aisle from me were also getting quite snap happy. Swiss father and son and Spanish grandfather (lovely mixture there!) were between them videoing and photographing almost every second of the journey. The grandfather sat up in his chair like a five-year-old about to receive the dessert he’d been promised for eating his veggies. His son and grandson were only slightly calmer, yet the constant sharing of the video camera suggested an internal excitement that matched that of Pop.
Why do we take photos?
This might seem an obvious question; “Uhhh, to remember the moment, Erin, ya dick!”
And of course, yes; often this is the motive. In the case of the Andes rising up further up Route 60 in front of me, appearing through the residual chemical haze of human existence previously clouding it from sight, yes, I was moved to yank my camera out in order to remember the moment. I’d never seen anything exactly like that before.
But in other instances on this trip (and in life itself) I’ve taken photos for another purpose: To orchestrate a story. In these cases, I’ve been as guilty as a photo editor at Vogue of altering pictures by removing something that was there, or adding another element in order to create the picture that best suits my needs at the time. Whether to suggest an emotion that wasn’t present or better advertise a location, the choice to tamper with pictures is felt by many, if not all of us. Certainly those of us with iphones: Instagram, anyone? Making the lives of iphone owners seem more interesting since 2011.
Consider these pictures:
The first one was taken using a colour filter that brightens the existing colours in a scene. The second is the scene as it was. There’s not doubt that the first is more attention-grabbing, more immediate…but also, perhaps, less real. Can a children’s playground really look like that at twilight? The sky in the second is still attractive, but is over ruled a little by the darkness of the play equipment.
Is the first one a lie?
I’d say yes and no. Yes, in that the scene didn’t look like this – I asked the camera to lie about the brightness of the colours. But no, in that the feelings evoked by the picture are truer to those that I felt when I saw how the lolly-pink clouds were behaving in the sky that afternoon.
And so, in this spirit, the spirit of remembering how things felt…I may continue to lie a little about the brightness of certain things; or casually lean to the left to leave that rubbish bin out of my pic; or arrange my friends more attractively; or use that toy camera effect my Canon so adorably offers; or…
…this could be never ending.