Should we take pictures like this?

Should we take photos like this?

Of course :)  If I had the photographic skills this woman clearly possesses, it would be a travesty if I didn’t.

However, I am really not a good photographer. Is enough for me to work out getting the light behind me, sometimes even in focus :)

I always therefore have left it to whoever I am with to take the pictures, then ask them if they would mind emailing them on to me, or to do me some copies.

Until I had kids, I never took many photos. Now I snap them all the time. Them dressed up, their art work, funny stuff they do.  Seeing children grow daily is a living example of impermanence.  I want to capture that cute moment to treasure forever, as I know it will never be that way again.

Between the age of 18-21, I traveled for 18 months, and took about 3 films of pictures, from 13 countries and no videos. Not a great deal of footage.

The last place I traveled to was Indonesia, alone, at 21. I stood out there, as I was often the only foreigner in a group of locals or on a bus.

I stood out as I was taller, whiter, frecklier, and redder-haired than the average local.  People wanted photos of me, as to them frizzy-hair was a tourist attraction.  The last thing I ever wished do was draw even more attention to my differences by snapping away like a sightseer.

I always wanted to settle in, as best as I could. To live and experience local life as authentically as possible, rather than planning my outings around cool things to snap for albums to present back at home later.  Maybe it was my age, but I never thought about now, how cool it would be to show my kids pictures of where I had lived.

I was also very wary of missing important moments by messing about with buttons on my camera. Or even worse, investing time in capturing images, only to lose my camera or accidentally wipe the memory card.

I never asked someone to take a picture of me somewhere.

As well as that whenever I was in the presence of a group of locals I wanted to fit in, I hate having my picture taken. The idea of a selfie in public makes my palms perspire. Those awkward moments when your smile becomes fake, as you have held it for so long waiting for the flash to go off, or for the camera to power up, make me feel uncomfortable.

Secondly, I didn’t want my memory of special times to be reduced to pictures of places I was not. As in, a picture of me was never going to be how I experienced something exactly, as I am in it, it is not from my perspective, so I believed my memory would then be skewed.

Even if I took the pictures myself, I knew I would never capture all of the most pertinent moments, it would be impossible. Therefore in years to come, my memories would be reduced to memories of the photos, which could be different to memories of the events that were special to me at the time.

At the times I was travelling, there was no Facebook/ Instagram, and all my pictures are still sitting in albums, or packets, under my bed at my mum’s house over 3,00km away. All my pictures are too heavy to fly over, and would get destroyed by the humidity where I live. So they are not really of great use to me.

However, a good friend just traveled to the parts of Indonesia which I did 10 years ago and has posted her photographs on her blog. Here is an image she took, which was the most beautiful place I had forgotten I visited, on the island Tuk Tuk, on Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia.

shana tuk tuk

You can see more of these photos I didn’t take here

Seeing her pictures now has inspired me to write this. Her photos jogged memories I had forgotten, great and not so great recollections.

Now that I have children and haven’t left Europe in 7 years, my memories of travelling have become very romanticized. Seeing her pictures brought more realistic recollections of:

  • Walking home over rickety bridges in pitch black darkness, with only my phone for a light, feeling pretty anxious and a long, long way from home.
  • Staring aghast at my jungle guide’s 15 leeches all over his legs, after a jungle trek, only to then disrobe and discover I had 16 on mine. Yuk.
  • Sleeping on a roll mat for a week in the steep Sumatran jungle, with stomach pains from spicy food I wasn’t accustomed to and far away from anyone I really knew.

So my conclusion? I am not so sure. I do regret not taking more photos on my travels.  A bit. But I am also glad that some of the places I visited, things I did and saw, are images captured only in my head only by me and I will never see another persons’ photos of them.

I couldn’t capture the smells, the warmth, the textures, all the things that made the situations memorable to me, on a film. I wonder if my greatest memories would be the same, if I had regularly looked at pictures of other times on the same trips. What if those pictures were also blurry, enhanced, or the light looked different in actuality?  Would that have altered my memories?

I also think that the greatest moments, we don’t really always capture, as we get absorbed in the now-ness.

I do wish I had more pictures of those years, I just wish someone else had been there to take them for me. Someone with a good lens who could capture images just right, someone like Elena Shumilova.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this too :)


I'm a Yoga teacher and mother to 8 year old twins, with an interest in health, wellness and movement. In addition to articles on here, my work can be found by searching on Elephant Journal for my name, which will bring up recipes and mindful living articles. Thanks for reading :-)

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