Speeding Up/Slowing down


One the most tragic losses of the late twentieth century is the inability to take the time
to reflect on our actions. I often hear people comment on how they don’t have enough time to do this or that, because they are so busy. Clearly, the number of hours in the day itself has not changed, but the perceived stress of accomplishing things quickly, or more efficiently, is certainly a factor and a major distraction for most of us. Especially those with school-age children who feel they are on a constant treadmill of activity.


Many are affected by the undercurrent of a faster pace that has increased exponentially over the past thirty-five years in conjunction with personal computers and the internet. The compulsion to respond immediately, to instantly view every email and text message, where urgency is more or as important as content, is pernicious, and we see the effects of it in our language and communications.


In PBS television’s
Ken Burns’ The Civil War,
we hear many readings
of letters from the mid-
19th century, that are
to-and-from soldiers in
the field, and relatively

uneducated men. In
listening to these letters,
the degree of articulation
and lyricism we hear is
astounding. Granted,
a great deal of it is repre-
sentative of the formal language of the age rather than colloquialisms, but one
can also intuit that a great deal of thought was given to the feelings that were
being communicated.


I feel that today the common language, especially the written word with its influence from texting and e-mail, has almost become a throw-away item that is given little thought or consideration—except perhaps in business transactions because there is money at stake. The proof of our hurriedness is the sheer amount of typos easily seen in online news media and magazines in contrast to forty years ago.


For photographers, it is
good to remember that
Henri Cartier-Bresson,
the man who is famed
with capturing the
“decisive moment” as
he termed it, and set the
standard for 35mm street
photography, worked
with a manual camera
and was a keen observer.
He took the time to
reflect and wait for the
appropriate moment.
There was no automation. Shooting at 6 frames-per-second was not an option.
Intrinsic to his process of capturing the decisive moment was observation and patience. For photographers, these qualities are just as pertinent today as they
were one hundred years ago.


Elliot Erwitt once said, “All the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for the inability to notice.”



Camera Sense Archives