Life without a camera in a world focused on cute cat pictures


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.”

25 thoughts on “Life without a camera in a world focused on cute cat pictures

  1. Sue Hyams July 18, 2014 at 11:36 am Reply

    Oh but Jim I love photos! Especially the Throwback Thursday on Facebook. A photo can’t capture the moment as you say. The Eastern Fells photo would have failed in being an exact replica of the scene in front of you, as have been the photos I took recently of the Thames at Wapping. But perhaps they can jog your memory of that moment and bring all those other senses back. Whether the selfie-cute-cat generation feels the same is another matter entirely though. I’m thinking not.

    • jwebster2 July 18, 2014 at 12:25 pm Reply

      I like pictures, but not enough to take time out of the now to do anything about it. I suppose it’s just that I discovered that in reality I never did look at the pictures again. The pictures I’ve taken sit as slides in cases, looked at twice since they were taken in 1983 and not at all since 1984.
      But I do like pictures, I play with pictures, at you can see the lengths I go to to try and sell a book 🙂

  2. The Story Reading Ape July 18, 2014 at 11:51 am Reply

    Great article (and a nice little ‘unrelated’ book promo at the end) Jim 😀

    • jwebster2 July 18, 2014 at 12:25 pm Reply

      I thought I’d worked that in almost seamlessly to be honest 🙂

      • The Story Reading Ape July 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm

        LOLOLOL 😀 😀 😀

      • jwebster2 July 18, 2014 at 1:33 pm

        Is this the point to mention to you that you can by one of the finest Sci-Fi detective adventures ever written for a mere £1.84 from ?

      • The Story Reading Ape July 18, 2014 at 1:43 pm

        Get AWAY – As little as THAT? You couldn’t even buy a Coffee for that 😀 😀 😀

      • jwebster2 July 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm

        It is a question I continually ask, is the book worth less than the coffee you buy to drink with it?

      • The Story Reading Ape July 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm

        Or the muffin whose crumbs you scatter onto it 😀

      • jwebster2 July 18, 2014 at 3:56 pm

        I confess I could get really bitter and twisted about the fact that the book I took so much of my life writing is worth less than a muffin!

      • The Story Reading Ape July 18, 2014 at 4:02 pm

        Unfortunately no-one has come up with a muffin flavoured book yet, or there’d be a lot more of them sold I guess 😀

      • jwebster2 July 18, 2014 at 4:07 pm

        When you think about it, if I printed my books on pages made of chocolate coated wafer thin mint I’d sell millions at tens of pounds a time and make a fortune. It’s just when I sell them to read that I meet consumer resistance

      • The Story Reading Ape July 18, 2014 at 4:13 pm

        Ah there’s no accounting for taste Jim 😀 😀 😀

      • jwebster2 July 18, 2014 at 4:49 pm

        No there isn’t. Mind you, I’ve even written Romance as well in an attempt to cover all tastes 😉 (a short story in this anthology)

      • The Story Reading Ape July 18, 2014 at 5:42 pm

        😀 A man of myriad talents 😀

      • jwebster2 July 18, 2014 at 7:13 pm

        some of them literary 😉

      • The Story Reading Ape July 18, 2014 at 7:17 pm

        😀 😀 😀

  3. paul robinson-kamp July 18, 2014 at 12:27 pm Reply

    Nice article Jim. I’d say words are a better form of aspic with which to preserve memory’s than pictures. Photos have all the draw backs you mention but words, when arranged effectively, can be the curators of a thought or vision for centuries.

  4. paul robinson-kamp July 18, 2014 at 1:50 pm Reply

    Precisely, Jim. There’s a good reason writers get shot while painters get off with a warning.

    • jwebster2 July 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm Reply

      The words can creep into your soul when you’re not looking

  5. M T McGuire July 19, 2014 at 8:17 am Reply

    I think if the photo is good enough it will evoke the scent of new mown grass etc. however I do agree in part. Take too much time on the photos and the experience passes you by. That said, I love looking at mine, and now that I have them all on my computer it’s easy to do so any time.



    • jwebster2 July 19, 2014 at 8:44 am Reply

      My slides sit in racks in a drawer in a cupboard that I’ve not opened for twenty years 😦
      Life is just short to worry about putting them on a computer.

      • M T McGuire July 19, 2014 at 10:13 am

        Apart from the photos from a couple of trips (ditto) mine are all taken with a digital camera so they are all pretty instantly accessible. But yes, the ones in the cupboard have pretty much stayed there.



      • jwebster2 July 19, 2014 at 11:15 am

        I sort of missed out on the whole camera on the phone thing because what’s the point in spending money on a phone that lives switched off for most of its life because we’ve no signal?
        I suspect that it’s only in the last three or four years that I’ve had a computer that could cope with pictures, but there again I don’t suppose I ever looked to check 🙂

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