Skip to comments.Concerning the obsession for photos at Liturgies – A Consideration of a Liturgical and Pastoral...
Posted on 06/10/2014 1:38:38 AM PDT by markomalley
Consider the scene. The Bishop has taken his place at the entrance to the sanctuary. He is prepared to confirm some twenty children. It is a sacred moment, a Sacrament is to be conferred. The parents are in deep prayer thanking the Holy Spirit who is about to confirm their children for mission .. Oops, they are not!
Actually, they are fumbling with their cell phone cameras. Some are scrambling up the side aisle to get the shot. Others are holding the phone up in the air to get the blurry, crooked shot. The tussling continues in the side aisle as parents muscle to get in place for the shot. If the shot is gotten, success! If not, woe is me. Never mind that a sacrament has actually been offered and received, the point was the shot, the photo-op.
Consider another scene. It is First Holy Communion. Again, the children are assembled. This time the parents have been informed that a single parishioner has been engaged to take shots and could they please refrain from amateur photography. This is to little avail, Who does that deacon think he is telling me to refrain, denying me the shot!? The cell phones still stick up in the air. Even worse, the parish photographer sends quick word via the altar server, Could Father please slow down a bit in giving the children communion? It is difficult to get a good shot at the current (normal) pace. After the Mass the photographer has two children along side, could Father perhaps re-stage the communion moment for these two since, in the quick (normal) pace of giving Communion, their shot was bad, as the autofocus was not able to keep up Look how blurry it is Father.
It would seem the picture is the point.
I have seen it with tourists as well. I live just up the street from the US Capitol and it is fascinating to watch the tourists go by on the buses. Many of them are so busy taking a picture of the Capitol (a picture they your get in a book, or find on the Internet), that I wonder if they ever see the Capitol with their own eyes.
The picture is the point.
Actually I would propose, it is NOT the point. Real life and actual experience are the point. Further, in the Liturgy, the worship and praise of God, the experience of his love, and attentiveness to his Word is the point. Cameras, more often than not, cause us to miss the point. We get the shot but miss the experience. Almost total loss if you ask me.
At weddings in this parish we speak to the congregation at the start and urge them to put away all cameras. We assure the worried crowd that John and Mary have engaged the services of a capable professional photographer who will be able to record the moment quite well. What John and Mary could use most from you now are your prayers for them and expressed gratitude to God who is the author and perfecter of this moment. Yes, we assure them, now is the time for prayer, for worship and for joyful awareness of what God is doing.
Most professional photographers are in fact professional and respectful and know how to stay back and not become a part of the ceremony but to discretely record it. It is rare that I have trouble with them. Videographers still have a way to go as a group, but there are many who I would say are indeed professional.
Pastorally it would seem appropriate to accept that photos are important to people to make reasonable accommodations for photos. For major events such as weddings, confirmations, First Communions and Easter Vigils, it seems right that we should insist that if photos are desired, a professional be hired. This will help keep things discrete, and permit family and others to more prayerfully experience the sacred moments. Infant Baptisms are a little more homespun and it would seem that the pastor should speak with family members about limiting the number of amateur photographers, and be clear about where they should stand.
That said, I have no photos of my Baptism, First Communion or Confirmation. I have survived this (terrible) lack of the shot quite well. Frankly, in the days I received these sacraments, photos of the individual moment were simply not done in the parishes I attended. Some parishes did have provisions for pictures in those days. The photo at upper right is of Cardinal OBoyle at St. Cyprians in Washington DC in 1957. But as for me, I do have a photo of me taken on my way to Church for First Communion, but there is no photo of me kneeling at the rail. I am alive and well. There are surely photos of my ordination. But I will add, the Basilica and the Archdiocese were very clear as to the parameters. Only two professional photographers were allowed, (My Uncle was one of them them) and the place where they worked was carefully delineated.
Hence, pastoral provisions are likely necessary in these visual times which allow some photos. Yet as St. Paul says regarding the Liturgy: But let all things be done decently, and according to order (1 Cor 14:40).
A final reiteration: Remember the photo is not the moment. The moment is the moment and the experience is the experience. A photo is just a bunch of pixels, lots of 0's and 1's, recorded by a mindless machine and printed or displayed by a mindless machine. A picture is no substitute for the actual experience, the actual prayer, the actual worship that can and should take place at every sacred moment and it every sacred liturgy.
Msgr Pope ping.
Our parish had a “set” designed where the bishop posed with every child and again with their family after the ceremony. Years later, these are much better than anything you could have gotten in the church.
Well Msgr. Pope, you forget that most cell phones have the ability to take pictures or videos in a very quiet and reverent manner.
I drives me crazy when people are waving their cell phones and IPads around at mass. The solution is to do an immediately available digital video of the ceremony, and even, in the case of Confirmation, an individual shot of each child’s Confirmation that would then be available to the parents, either to print or to download.
Even when the phone or camera is on silent mode, it’s still annoying to have somebody holding their hand up in front of you, filming away like mad.
And his other point is correct: People spend so much time taking pictures or videos of things that they miss the actual event and its emotional impact.
“People spend so much time taking pictures or videos of things that they miss the actual event and its emotional impact.”
They are just very excited. It actually shows how much they value that moment, and want to go back to it again and again. Maybe months from now they’ll be sitting in a waiting room flipping through pics on their phone, and enjoy it again.
I know its gonna sound crazy, but not everyone experiences, or even wants to experience the event the way you would.
Go out to dinner these days and watch young people. When their food arrives, they pause to take a picture for Instagram.
We enjoy how it looks and smells and pause to give thanks.
If I don't hear it, I'm okay. For I can always close my eyes and folks think I'm praying, but talking? Way more annoying.
This is an excellent point. How is it possible to give God the worship that is due Him and appreciate the sacredness of what is taking place while busily taking pictures? It's a poor trade to substitute the ephemeral for the sacred.
I’m with the Monsignor here. I survived quite well with the emphasis on the Sacraments I received and not on the photos of the moment.
God bless him.
The phones, yes. Their owners, not always so much.
I used to own a business that specialized in shooting collegiate sports. I focused mostly on DII and DIII schools, so the sidelines were pretty much open.
When I started using the internet for parent’s sales I could count on 35% of my income from the web. By the time I closed up my internet shop 13 years later, the sidelines parents with their phones and crappy cameras had cut that to less than 5%. People are just conditioned that crappy pictures for free are better than great photos for a price are not.
Those “guys with cameras” essentially put me out of business, and I can assure you that they missed most of the games their kids played in. Its too bad. It was a great gig when it was great.
Another perspective. Thanks.
What you described has happened in many fields. I’ve always thought cinema was impervious to an amateur coup, given the money and crew required to create it. Yet recently I followed a link to an iPhone gadget that was a mini dolly track/steadycam.
I love good photography. The one thing that could draw me back to it is medium/large format film...an area far from the camera phone crowds, lol. Hope to explore that some day.
Could it be because of the desire for the memories of that special day.
High resolution digital has come of age. And if I still had to mess with those chemicals in the darkroom, I wouldn't be taking pictures.
Because if they don't photograph it, nobody will.
Its sad because, much like a lot of things, the true professional is being pushed out of the business.
This is true in my field, stock stuff, fine art photos, and probably most of all weddings.
I had tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. And between the equipment and my 30 years of experience you could SEE the difference. I had the light, the angle, and the knowledge of the sport to make the shot better.
But it is a value proposition. And my prices were relatively cheap compared to many others.
My images are going to be posted on walls for generations. The snapshot, crappy digital photos have already been forgotten.