Cameras to the Left of Me, Cameras to the Right of Me…

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Rhetorical question….When does technology detract from a special event?  Much has been written on the topic and we are approaching the condition where it never detracts or always detracts.  There is very little left in the middle.

We are digital people and it can be a good thing.  We love our cameras, webcams, iphones and all devices great and small.  Usually.  There are times when one wonders if the devices have taken over the event.

During the exhilarating broadcast of the Obama Inauguration, Tom Brokaw was filling time and said, “I wish I had the digital camera franchise in

Washington this week.”  He was right, the cameras were everywhere.  It seemed the only one without a camera was President Obama and Michelle.  If I had been lucky enough to attend, I am sure I would have taken a camera too and wished I had a better lens or that I had read the owner’s manual.  Nonetheless, I wish that there had been just a few less digital cameras and devices, at least around the podium.  We were watching people take pictures of an incredible event as much as we were watching the event. 

Don’t get me wrong.  Like most people I know, I was thrilled by President Obama and his presence.  I was moved to tears by his speech and the hope he has instilled in the country.  The crowd was inspirational too and I wished that some of those kids using their digital cameras to take photos from miles away had huge telephoto lenses.  I know they will be posting those photos all over Facebook to prove they were there and that it was cold.  What surprised me and had me wondering about the cameras, was all the people so close to the President who were taking photos.  As he came down the stairs on the main platform, I saw Senators and former Vice Presidents whipping out their little digitals for the photo op.  I saw members of the new and old Cabinet trying to figure out whether to look at the big screen on their camera or put their eye up to the little viewfinder.  The cameras were everywhere.  I was expecting Chief Justice Roberts to take out a camera and take a quick one while he was doing the swearing in.  I was worried that a Secret Service Agent would whip a camera out of a shoulder holster.  No worries there.

Don’t believe me?  Check out the official photos and see the photos of all the photo-takers.   In fact, with all the Official photographers there, why do the luminaries even have to worry about photos?   Did they want to prove they were there?

At the luncheon immediately following the swearing-in, I spotted Cindy McCain on her blackberry while standing six inches away from Al Gore and a host of other dignitaries.  I wondered who she could possibly be texting that was more important than the people around her.  Was it the baby sitter to see if everything is all right?  That might be an excuse but I doubt the baby sitter was of concern to her.  There she was at probably the most historic event of her life and she is looking down thumb dancing rather than talking about global warming or at the very least, the

Arizona Cardinals.  If she was taking photos it might have been slightly more excusable, but not much. 

The behavior is everywhere.  I went to a reception not long ago where the honoree was over in the corner on his blackberry.  Who was he pinging?  I can see a day where grooms will be taking photos of the bride while she recites her vows.  I can see a day when the quarterback will be taking photos of the defense while on the field.   I can see a day where …there are very few places where the camera isn’t there already.

Be present or be in the moment are sentiments that are worthy of heeding.  If the camera makes you a spectator instead of a participant, leave the photos to the people who are getting paid to take the shots.

Long ago at a Bonnie Raitt concert the crowd was going wild for an encore.  The stadium was full with forty thousand fans, each calling her name. She came back out, strummed her guitar a few times and said, “It’s not like I had something better to do.”

Sometimes there is something better to do than to text or take the photo.


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