A lot of years ago I used to take photographs. Somewhere I’ve got a fair heap of slides taken when I was on Iceland or visited Samarkand, Bukhara and Tashkent.
I suppose I was encouraged to do it and then people, desperate for something to fill a calendar used to ask whether I did slide shows. After doing a couple it struck me that, actually, when I got down to it, I didn’t particularly enjoy doing them. Not only that but the camera was heavy when you were carrying it for any distance (like twenty miles a day) and the whole job was more faff than it was worth. Anyway, for thirty or more years I’ve never bothered with photos.
But I was thinking about it the other day. I was sitting eating sausage and chips, leaning against the back wheel of a tractor in the evening sun looking out over a fair chunk of the Eastern Fells, half listening to two chaps pondering how someone managed to bend a mower like that. I suppose I could have taken a photo, but it would be a pathetic failure, because whilst it might get a bit of the view, it would have missed entirely the scent of cut grass, warm rubber, vinegar and the sound effects of desultory conversation and a tractor working in the background. It certainly would not catch the warmth of the day and the feel of the breeze on the skin and not only that; whilst I was faffing about taking the photo I’d have missed everything that was going on.
I suppose that thirty or more years ago I came to the conclusion that spending your life taking photos that you were never going to look at again was a waste of time. Worse than that, not only did the photo give you a substandard picture of the scene if you ever did get look at it again, but all the fuss of photographing meant you didn’t fully appreciate the scene as you were living through it.
So effectively you were robbing yourself of the full ‘now’ to enable yourself to waste the future evoking memories of the ‘now’ that you’d wasted.
It may seem a strange comparison but it’s a bit like travelling by car. Actually I can understand these children who would prefer to play with games in the back of a car rather than look at the scenery. A lot of adults really ought to try travelling in the back of a car again before they moan that children are wasting an experience. In the back of the car you get either the nausea inducing side view as stuff whips past you at speed, or you can see that bit or the road that fits between the two front seats and the rear view mirror. But even if you’re in the front, there’s this feeling of unreality about it all, you sit in an isolated and perhaps air-conditioned box totally divorced from the reality of the situation. I’m afraid I’d much rather walk, where you are actually in the world and part of it, rather than the detached observer.
So what happens to the memories? What happens to all those pictures I don’t trap on captured electrons and load onto the web?
Well when I’m gone, they’re gone. But frankly do you think future generations are going to generate power purely to store the myriad of selfies, cute cat pictures and pictures of somebody’s lunch?
And do I want my descendants to live their lives through my memories or do I want them to have interesting memories of their own?
As it is, I suppose my memories have gone into the books. The incidents, tales and pictures that couldn’t have been caught on camera anyway have been cold-welded together with a lot of other stuff I had lying about.
But then I do get to work with the most amazing artists
As a reviewer commented, “I never have to think about whether or not I should buy one of Jim Webster’s books, I buy them without hesitation, knowing I’m going to enjoy reading them and have all of them so far.
The characters, scenes, Port Naain, etc, are all believable, engrossing and the storylines cleverly constructed, even in the shortest of his tales.”