It was Christmas celebrations at my daughter’s school last month. The kindergarten kids dressed in finery were lined up on stage, waiting for the curtains to go up. Also eagerly waiting were their parents, yours truly included, in front of the stage with cameras and phones ready to roll. The curtains went up, the teacher gave the cue and the air was filled with voices of around 30 kids, singing in and out of unison.
And keeping pace with the dancing on stage was the jostling off stage. Flashes from the many cameras lit up the stage. Each of us was intent on getting the best shot or clip of our kids, so much so that nobody was interested in the overall singing of the group or the antics of the kids on stage. End result, chaos in front of the stage and the performance missed in the desire to record for posterity. And nary a concern for the audience behind. Don’t show your back to the audience is the advice given to stage performers. The stage performers follow that to a tee but their guardians are not bound by any such niceties.
New generation digital cameras made everybody a hotshot photographer. Mobile phones with cameras have taken it a step further. The problem is when it is carried to absurd extremes. The moment a performance starts, the clicking starts. Almost as if there is no need for a first-hand experience of the performance or a trip through our natural five senses.
And parents being parents, the best shots are selected for forwarding to all and sundry. Facebook updates follow. It is the elusive search for a clip that when put up on YouTube will hopefully go viral. And give my daughter her fifteen minutes of fame. Or is it my fifteen minutes of fame? It is almost as if we are living each event twice over. Once on stage, the ephemeral; the next in the digital world, now and forever. Like satellites in space, all these videos float around in the etherworld.
It has come to such a pass that a thing is considered good if it goes viral on YouTube, not that it has to be good to go viral. Sort of like putting the cart before the horse. Indeed, almost all events are actually experienced second-hand, sitting in front of the screen, viewing the images. Photographs are good reminders of events and occasions, an aid to failing memory with the passage of time. But it has now come to pass that if there is no photograph of the event, it has not taken place. Let us for once enjoy the moment when it is actually taking place. Then we can just close our eyes and the scenes will float into our mind’s eye in full technicolour detail. And more than just the images, we can hear the sound of laughter, of the crying, of the banter enlivening us better than any multimedia display.
But where is the time to think such things now? The school authorities have come out with a notice to the parents to not come in front of the stage with their cameras during their wards’ programme. But they don’t realise that 40MP phone cameras will give us our digital immortality.