Saturday, January 12, 2013

Non Carpe Camera

At the beginning of the summer, my mother and I took the kids to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  I had been once before, when I was seventeen.  But, I am going to be honest with you, at seventeen, I was more interested in sitting in the dark corners of the Open Sea exhibit, with my German exchange student boyfriend, than I was in looking at the scalloped hammerheads who swam there.

I’m still not much of a wild life person, but this I time I brought my own.  I was looking forward to watching my children as they saw their first real jelly fish and sea lion.  And, octopus.  Nothing is more mind blowing than an up-close look at a giant octopus.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch my children see anything, because the octopus aquarium was completely obstructed by a phalanx of parents, eight wide and two deep.  The area was strewn with unattended children in strollers, while their parents, wielding thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment, jockeyed for just the right sucker shot.  I had to force my way through, dragging my children behind me, and form a sort of one-woman scrum over their little bodies, so that they could see.

I would like to ask those parents a few questions.  Why did you go to the aquarium that day?  Was it to give your kids an experience they couldn’t get anywhere else?  Or, was it to take a picture?  Do you have a cephalopod fetish?  A blog?

This is the twenty-first century.  You can find thousands of spectacular images of a giant octopus, including video, in a fraction of a second.  What is going to make your photo so unique?  That you took it yourself?  At the expense of not watching your child, giddy with wonder at such an amazing beast?

Hey, mom and dad.  Put the camera down.  Back away from the glass.  Give your kids (and more importantly, mine) a chance to see the octopus.  Give yourselves a chance to see your children witness something more amazing than any picture.  

If pictures are that important to you, just down the hall here, you can get a professional quality photo of this same octopus, for only fifty cents.  It’s called a post card. 

That’s what I did.  I bought four postcards for two dollars, tucked them safely away, and forgot about them.  What I remember is the look on Jonah's face, and Sam's face, and Cate's face, as they gaped in awe at the underside of a real live octopus.

I may not have a fancy camera, but I took the best pictures in the world that day.  They are called memories.

[The above photograph was taken using a $60 camera, smudged with sunscreen, 
because my children are, inexplicably, not included in the Monterey Bay Aquarium post card collection. 
No views were obstructed.]