On Saturday the Guardian published a double-page photo of the pop singer George Michael making his comeback performance in the new Wembley Stadium. George was on a little jetty of stage surrounded by a sea of fans. He looked like he was having a great time. The fans did too, but not one of them seemed to be paying full attention to the emotional possibilities of the moment. Every single one of them had a camera trained at the singer, trying to capture a visual snap of the occasion. OK, the shot didn’t come out well. You can’t really see that it’s George. But… I was there.
I wasn’t there, actually. But that weekend I was at a birthday party (mine) on the banks of the Ouse, between Willey’s Bridge and Hamsey. As I set off, with a carefully prepared picnic, I cursed the fact that I had left my camera at work. I wasn’t going to be able to record the party for posterity. I wasn’t going to be able to divorce myself from the action in order to capture it on film. I wasn’t going to be able to become a voyeur of my own guests. No matter. I thoroughly enjoyed the party.
I always take a camera to the Dripping Pan, to take photos of the football for this site and the Handbook. I used to diligently wander round the touchline, but I soon realised I could take better pictures less obtrusively from the stands. One game I missed the first goal trying to take a picture of the bar manager wearing a pinny (I mucked up the shot, too). Then I missed the second snapping a fan dressed up like Elvis Presley.
I once took a picture of a hundred Japanese taking the same shot of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I wondered what it was about the Japanese that made them more interested in recording the moment than seizing it. Now I realise: it’s nothing about race. It’s all about technology. We’ve caught up. We’re turning into a nation of voyeurs, not doers. AL