I say yes.
In this post I’ll share with you an experience at the Shrine of Remembrance, where you’ll see many pictures from outside, but none from inside.
I was thinking about cameras and the photos we take while traveling after a post from A Globe Well Travelled posed the question, sharing Jessie on a Journey’s No Picture Holiday Experiment. That conversation was about taking in the experience vs. taking photos and I think the main consensus was finding the right balance of really experiencing, but for those of us who enjoy photography, getting the opportunity to do that all over the world. I agree – I love to take pictures everywhere I go, but that’s not the reason I’m there. So I like to walk around and take it in first, then consider the photos second.
But as I walked around Melbourne the other day, I found the Shrine of Remembrance. I have been incredibly moved by Australia’s dedication to remembering and honoring soldiers who were lost. The Shrine of Remembrance was no exception. At first I was overtaken by its size and beauty, but walking around is so humbling as you see every precise detail has been paid attention.
I was taking in a beautiful wall featuring “lest we forget” – just stunned by its simplicity. Then two women walked into the courtyard. At first I thought they were also taking in the moment, but then I realized they were doing a photo shoot. Up against this stunning wall. I agree, what a beautiful backdrop, but wholly inappropriate. Even moreso, while I was looking at it and really taking in what it meant, the photographer asked me to move so they could use the wall behind me next. I did, namely because I thought it would be even more disrespectful to cause a scene by pointing out the inappropriateness of their chosen scene.
The continued on with their shoot and I continued exploring. This particular site has a wealth of information about the wars, which really gave more meaning to the shrine. When you enter the shrine, there is a bit of ceremony happening, music, spoken word and light that moves about to illuminate different parts. I watched that and walked around, looking at all the books with the names of each soldier from Queensland, looking at each flag representing the parts of Australia and New Zealand involved in the war.
I took it all in, but took no photos.
I have pictures from outside of the shrine, but felt that inside, it would be inappropriate. It is incredibly built and designed – from the architecture to the lighting to the individual elements (such as the books of names and the flags). But I personally feel that each of those bits is for experiencing, and can’t, and shouldn’t, be done through photos. Even with my purpose being to share these experiences back with all of you, not appropriate. Especially those who are just taking them for a family album, not appropriate.
That speaks to inside the shrine. Then as I walked out, I circled the shrine to see it from every angle, and walked into the front courtyard. Here is where I noticed people taking jumping pictures, cheery family photos, and generally running around jovially. Any of you who know me know that I’m all for smiling and laughing at about every occasion, but I also found this inappropriate. Is this really the appropriate site to have those types of photos? I’m not sure the answer to that question and feel quite torn. On one hand it is a site dedicated to honoring and remembering those who were lost in war, which invokes somber feelings and a contemplative spirit. Because I was so moved by the site, this is where I was emotionally. On a stark contrast, there is also the notion of celebrating the lives of those passed. This can be seen all over the world through different celebrations and I have total respect for that perspective as well, and tend to prefer it.
However, I don’t think that much of the photography that takes place at these sites fits into either category.
So it begs the questions – are there places where cameras and photography are inappropriate? Are there places where the cameras are appropriate, but the style of photography is inappropriate? How do we best capture moments and places for ourselves and others, while best honoring those moments and places?