Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Perpetual Tourist’s Necessities & Accessories

I am generally known for carrying around a "momma's bag," in other words, a purse in which a small-to-large animal could make himself a comfortable home. In that momma bag, a camera (not a small animal) is almost always the most significant item nestled in its depths. My camera is with me everywhere.

Though perhaps secretly aspiring to be so, I am not a highly trained, techy photographer. I consider anything that can point and shoot to be a camera, and I do not discriminate against any machinery providing me with that option. For me, capturing the moment is the raison-etre of photography. And if that raison presents itself, and the machinery at hand is a AAA-battery run, thinner-than-a-coke-bottle-plastic camera, then that is part of the moment.

A camera is the most essential item in living like a tourist. Imagine packing for any trip, to any city, in any country. What is the one item that is always brought along for the bus, train or plane ride? Point is: a camera is the tell-tale sign of a tourist OR a life enthusiast as the perpetual tourist might prefer to be known.

I have taken over 16,800 pictures in the last 3 years. Let me break that down to more manageable numbers. This means 5,600 pictures in one year, or 15 pictures every day. If we assume that we are generally awake for approximately this number of hours in the day, I have taken the equivalent of one picture every waking hour for the last 3 years. A little hard core, I know. I don’t encourage or justify this behavior. Yet, I have no intention of stopping.

I believe that a picture is a little piece of magic. It makes any ordinary moment, item, detail, or facial expression special. By taking a photo, we assign significance to it. That once inconsequential moment is now interesting enough to share with others; it turns us into storytellers. And the commonplace becomes memorable.

We expand our memory to smaller events like a really strange face our best friend made to an oddly shaped cookie that came out of the oven. We remember and relive the small moments as well as the large ones as we flip through albums (or CDs) and stumble across them years later.

Weddings, graduations, birthday parties, the coliseum, the Eiffel tower and other famous creations… all forever warrant the use of a camera. But the perpetual tourist will not likely run into a Mona Lisa or the great wall of anything in the day-to-day.

Yet, I can vouch that my favorite photos end up being about the ridiculousness of everyday life: a squirrel flattened to the sidewalk in stealth mode, a particularly appetizing gelato or ice cream sundae, the fog settling in rings around a building, someone’s hair sticking straight up after a roller coaster ride.

So try making something “special” about an ordinary day: Take a picture of it. Remember, to beat me, you have 14 more to take before going to bed.

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