I looked at the photos of people staring at the Twin Towers as they burned and collapsed. So much horror and disbelief. So much pain. I thought about the photographers who captured those moments and so many other moments of tragedy. I know few of us want a photographer in our faces when we’re going through the worst moments of our lives, but they capture something important. They turn away from what’s happening to capture the human experience. Their snapshots convey what words often cannot.
Their motivations might vary. Some might be thinking of the money they can make or the experience they can exploit, but I believe there are many with much more noble motivations. They want to capture snapshots of life. Sometimes those snapshots are beautiful and heartwarming. Other times they are heart-wrenching.
As an photography-hobbyist, I get it to some degree. Although I don’t know that my instinct would be to stand with my back to trauma, unable to see what is happening and how it might impact me, in order to focus on someone or something else. Maybe.
Perhaps I can relate to it better when I think about capturing moments through writing. I often share what I experience or observe in life in order to encourage and challenge others. I want to widen others’ perspectives even when it involves my own vulnerability. I don’t think I’d equate it to a life-threatening choice, but it definitely is scary for me at times.
I’m not suggesting we live with our backs to the world at all times, but there’s something to be said for sacrificing our own comfort to help others. Sometimes we need to turn our backs to help others see.