ABC. Always Be Capturing. A somewhat lame spinoff of the famous line from Glengarry Glen Ross. But I mean it. And DoSS, for Don't Stop Shooting, sounded even worse.
When I got started with my first "real" camera, a film SLR Canon Rebel G, I shot constantly. And with all the cameras I had from then until a few years ago... I did the same. At one point I never went anywhere with no less than a Canon 1vHS, 10 rolls of film, 3 lenses and a flash.
Ok, so that was silly.
But it meant I was always capturing life around me. Friends, family, coworkers, skeptical strangers... no one was safe from my rabid enjoyment of the sound of my own shutter. And when you shoot constantly that way... when you look, to someone who knows you, like something's missing when you're not holding a camera... people just get used to it. I guess if they love you enough they just tolerate it. And then after a while they get truly used to it and enjoy the results. I have taken countless candid photos of people in the past 15 years where they stated, after seeing the results, that it was their favorite photo of them. I attribute that mostly to the fact that they just didn't like having their photo taken, so there wasn't much to choose from. But I got through that by being... well by being a guy who always had a camera.
Now it's a little easier. Our phones shoot wonderful photos, so you don't even need to be obtrusive and ostentatious to constantly take photos of the world around you.
Sometime about 3 years ago... two things influenced me away from my previous habit. One was that I started buying into the argument that if you're always shooting your life, you aren't present enough to live it. I can say, from experience, that it isn't the case with me. Also I have a terrible memory, so having records of the things I do allows me to relive moments I'd otherwise forget entirely. The other big influence was that I started having access to "higher profile" people in my life, and I didn't want to look like I was taking advantage. I didn't want to be posting photos of famous and popular people and seem that I was just trying to look cooler than I was.
Well I'm over that. I spent the past few years shooting only when around other photographers or when it was at a place where it was more acceptable (parties, events, etc.). And I have a huge chunk of life missing from the 100,000 or so photos I have in my personal library of snapshots.
Last month I went to visit my grandmother, whom I hadn't seen for over 15 years. She was in a nursing home and had a 2-inch tumor in her brain. She wasn't the person she was 15 years ago, let alone a few months ago... she didn't remember me, she didn't really talk much, and the only thing that really linked her to the grandmother that I remember was her smile and laugh.
I had brought my Leica M Monochrom... but I hesitated. I thought maybe it was inappropriate. I thought maybe she wouldn't like it but not be able to articulate it to me. I thought I'd look like a douche. And after 30 minutes or so of being there, I remembered that I used to not actually care until someone ASKED me to stop (and I always would if asked) and I took out the camera and started shooting some photos.
My grandmother passed away this weekend. I saw her only that one time in the final 15 years of her life, but I'm extremely grateful that I decided to shoot. In the photos she isn't the younger, loud laughing, constantly smiling grandmother I knew when I would come over for Christmas as a child... but you don't know that. The photos preserve what you want them to preserve. And for me these few photos preserve the person I knew before, and not the one I saw in the final month of her life.
And for that I am reminded to always be shooting.