Table Mountain was not on our itinerary, not for that gorgeous day. After an emotionally charged visit to Robben Island, all we wanted to do was have a meal and take a nap.
But Ian, our guide, insisted. The weather was perfect, he said. There was no guarantee we’d have another one, best to take advantage. If the clouds came in, visibility on Table Mountain would be reduced. I know this mountain, he said. You only have five days, why wait for tomorrow when you could see something else? We’re so close.
We insisted. We huddled among ourselves. We were adamant. We didn’t want a tour guide to commandeer our vacation. After all, for more than a week, we’d had people telling us what to do and when do it. And after Cape Town, we’d have another tour guide shepherding us around. Independent people, we wanted our freedom or a least a little latitude.
I can’t remember now what Ian said that clinched it. But I’m glad he didn’t give up. It was the best decision we made that day. As it turned out, it rained all day the next day and for several days after that, Table mountain looked as if a crisp white tablecloth had been spread over it.
From that moment, we never objected to anything Ian recommended.
As I walked through gallery after gallery in The Louvre in search of the European and African art collections, I couldn’t help notice that many of people ahead of me were taking photos of the artwork. Most didn’t even look at a painting long enough. They just got within camera range, snapped and moved on to the next one.
Granted, with the size of The Louvre — I’m sure I could visit every day for a month and not see the same collections twice — the objective for many visitors is to capture as much as possible in the time that they have. But, to me, it just waters down the experience.
I couldn’t help thinking about it for several hours after — and it comes back to mind each time since that I’ve been to an art gallery or a museum.
In this time when cell phones and digital cameras are so ubiquitous, it shouldn’t have been surprising but it was.
In thinking about what I’d write in this post, I thought about a comment Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, made recently at a talk at the New York Public Library. To paraphrase, he said CDs and computers make a large collection of music more easily accessible but flattens the sound.
The same could probably be said about taking photos of works of art. By relying on a camera instead of the eye to interpret and record the image, we reduce it to one dimension. Sure, it’s accessible — we can load it on to our computers, print a copy, share it with our friends, etc., but no camera I know of can capture the subtle qualities, like the light or tiny brush strokes that the eye can pick up, or the feeling that some works of art can evoke in a viewer.
Seeing this “drive-by viewing” had me thinking about how we engage the things around us and how technology is allowing us to breeze through our lives without slowing down or stopping to notice, to take stock.
Having worked with creative people in different fields, I’m acutely aware of the right of ownership whether of a manuscript, photograph, song or painting and how easy it is for us to ‘own’ a knock-off or a copy of the original. I’m also well aware that some museums, like The Louvre, allow visitors to take photos (sans flash).
Maybe it’s not such a big deal to allow cameras in museums since most of their artists are dead and maybe they recognize that a lot of us take photos on our digital cameras and never print them.
Shortly after we started out on our morning drive on the second day at Hwange National Park, we came across a jackal that had just made a kill. It looked up as we approached. From where we had stopped, we could hear the bones breaking as he chomped down on his breakfast. Godfrey thought it probably had been a bird.
Not long after we left the jackal, Sandra spotted an elephant just as it materialized from the bush a few yards from our jeep. Godfrey stopped so we could take her photo. We were so focused on taking photos that we didn’t see another elephant, probably her child or family member, across the path until Sandra called our attention to it.
By the time we shifted our attention to the other elephant, the mother had spread her ears so wide, she looked massive. I thought it was an impressive display and a wonderful photo opportunity until Sandra said it was how elephants intimidate a predator or rival. Since elephants are not famous for good eyesight, I’m not sure which she perceived us to be. Continue reading “Three Black Girlz on Safari: Elephants at the Watering hole, II”→