Setting the camera aside

Published 9:03 pm Friday, June 4, 2010

One thing you learn pretty quickly in this profession is that it can be very hard to mix business with pleasure.

If you’re focused on having a good time at the Peanut Fest, for example, you’re going to miss that great photo of the 3-year-old with her face covered in chocolate ice cream. And if you spend your time dancing at the city’s TGIF parties, you’ll come back to the office with a limited selection of pictures showing everybody else there having fun.

With a few exceptions, then, it’s necessary that a journalist be sure of his reason for attending a program before leaving the office or home. Am I doing this for work or is it purely for my own entertainment or other personal reasons is an important question to answer.

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I’ve been reminded of this lesson a couple of times this week as I attended kindergarten graduation ceremonies for my grandson and for the young students at First Baptist Christian School.

On Thursday, my wife and I joined a few dozen other grandparents, parents and friends who watched a group of a dozen or so 4- and 5-year-olds march across a stage, shake a school principal’s hand and take their kindergarten diplomas.

I took my camera to the event, because I’m expected to do so. As it turned out, however, the onstage action was too remote for good photos, so for the most part I sat and watched the program — and the many adults recording it on cell phones, digital cameras and video cameras. While they were jockeying for the few good vantage points, I sat and enjoyed the show, taking note of the particularly bright little boy in the back row.

When the program was over, we all headed outside, and I took a few shots of Noah in his cap and gown. Those photos are on Facebook now, and the wisest of my friends have all commented on just how cute/adorable/smart he is.

The event was similar to so many other kindergarten graduations, including one Friday at First Baptist Christian School, which I attended in my capacity as a reporter/photographer for the Suffolk News-Herald.

As I looked around the First Baptist Church sanctuary, I saw many proud parents and grandparents aiming lenses at the children who were standing on the steps of the stage. The children were singing songs they had learned, complete with silly hand gestures and facial expressions, not to mention all of the unscripted antics that a group of 20 or so 5-year-olds can muster during a 40-minute program.

Considering all of the digital still and video cameras trained on the group of children, there’s a pretty strong historical record of what happened onstage. But what occurred to me as I watched parents with their eyes glued to the screens of their various recording devices is how many of them missed the precious moments during the program as they captured the event.

The whole experience made me glad I’d set my camera aside the previous day. Sometimes the best way to honor such a slice of life is to record it not to the digital memory of the camera but to the analog memory of the mind.