inspiration Italy Paris snapshot of the soul the everyday moments

Put the Camera Down

June 8, 2016


It was the most perfect spring day in a little town outside of Milan…

Christian had ventured off to find an ATM machine as I walked into the cutest, most colorful gelato shop. It was a quiet, slow day in Italy – a Sunday – and I was the only customer in the shop. The owner, a middle-aged man wearing a white apron, offered me a kind smile as I held up my hands to make the international sign of “take a picture.” He nodded to my request to snap some photos of his sweet store and I began clicking away. I finally made my way back around to the counter where the gelato was, admiring all of the colors laid out in front of my lens and dreaming of how great all of these pictures would look on my blog. I looked up from my camera for just one quick second and saw him standing there, holding out to me a spoonful of one of the gelatos.

I quickly snapped a picture of the moment, like the crazy person I am, and then realized it was time to put the camera down. I couldn’t speak Italian, no, and it was confirmed that he knew very little English, but we still had moments to be shared and I no longer wanted to experience them behind the lens. I slipped my camera into my purse and thanked him while I tried the free spoonful. He waited, ever so intently, anxious to see my reaction over the flavor (mango) I’d just tried. This was more than just a spoonful of gelato; this was a man who had just gifted me a piece of his hard work, a small piece of his country – all for me to taste and absorb and take with me in my memories. I gave him a thumbs up, to which he laughed, which made me laugh. There I stood, with this sweet old man in Italy – laughing. Christian eventually came back and was surprised to see this shop owner and I laughing together over something that wouldn’t be as funny if I’d tried to retell it to him in that moment. Out of all of the amazing things I experienced while in Italy, my moment with my new Italian gelato-making friend was my favorite, and I was so glad I’d put my camera down so that I might fully experience it fully.

“Our happiest moments as a tourist always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” -Lawrence Block

If you’ve been a reader of this space for awhile, you’ve probably heard me mention this thing I do – “snapshot of the soul.” It’s when I feel a moment deep in my soul and take a heart-felt snapshot of that moment so that I don’t forget it… so that I can keep it forever. I literally take pause and mentally take a picture of the place and the smells and the feels and the colors. Many of my snapshot of the soul moments are of time spent with my grandparents, or evenings on the back porch with my best friends and a wine bottle, glasses clinking. They are of quiet mornings, watching the sun rise with a hot cup of coffee, or afternoons spent driving through the country and acknowledging the beauty that is found in big white fluffy clouds. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to take more snapshot of the soul pictures vs. a million actual pictures on my phone/camera, and I’ve found that I remember more details about the snapshot of the soul moment than I do with an actual picture. And it’s because I forced myself to take pause. When the screen is removed, there is nothing left to do but truly be IN the moment, seeing things with your eyes and feeling them with your heart – without worrying about focus, filters, likes, and how we might fit it into a blog post.

When I was in Paris last year, I was so surprised by the fact that not once did I see a Parisian on their phone or computer while out and about. Instead, they were fully immersed in conversation, in a book, or in their tiny cup of espresso. It was so refreshing to see and in turn made me feel like quite the outsider and tourist anytime I pulled out my camera. I’ll admit that I may have taken a few hundred photos during our time there (first time ever in Paris, hello!), but the irony to all of this is that I have yet to print and frame even ONE of those hundreds of pictures – over a year later! But, if you were to ask me about our time there, I could spend hours telling you about how the pink flowered trees seemed to give the morning sun a flower crown, or how seeing the statue of Venus at the Louvre made me cry – because I made sure to take snapshots (of the soul!) of both of those moments.

Don’t get me wrong – I am all about collecting pictures and filling my home with photo albums, and I seriously LOVE Instagram, but I think the point to all of this is to simply bring awareness to how camera-happy we have become… so much so that we might be missing important moments, important conversations. We must not forget to also put the camera down every now and then so we can fully immerse ourselves in the details of those moments. I think there’s room for both, do you?

My trips have taught me so much about new places, new people, myself, and surprisingly – about what’s really important in this life: living it.


Will you remember to put the camera down this summer?

EG signature


A version of this post was originally first shared on 6/22/15 over at Best Kept Self.

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  • SUCH a good reminder. Sometimes I feel like we may live life behind a lens, or a phone. The memories in our mind and heart will last forever too.

  • Yes. yes. yes. SUCH a good reminder. Kyle and I were just talking about this. The balance between capturing these moments with a camera and capturing them with our eyes and ears instead. We have been making more of effort to put the camera away more often. And it’s been really refreshing. By the way, I LOVE that tourist quote. It’s so true! <3

  • YES YES YES. Amen. Love this. I just want to live in the moment and not miss it. I get wanting some photos and sharing things but we miss so much when our eyes are buried behind a lens or phone.

  • Love it 🙂 I’m usually pretty bad at snapping photos, but I journal evvvverythingggg when we’re on a trip! I really love the idea of pausing to take a mental snapshot, though. I specifically remember doing that at our wedding!

  • This is so beautiful. I totally teared up over your sweet moment with this man, sharing his life’s work with you.

  • I’m the one who goes on trips and doesn’t bring the camera. People I’m with always say, “don’t you want a picture?” My response, “I have it, in my mind.” As long as my memory will continue to serve me, I want to capture it all in the moment. Now grant it, since Instagram has come along, I do like to snap a photo when I have my iPad with me but even then, it is far and few between. My phone is old and does not take good pictures and I prefer it that way.

  • There is so much truth to this! So many times I see folks busy trying to capture the perfect picture with the right lighting, angle, smile, poses, etc., and they forget to actually LIVE and BE in that moment. I’m much more guilty of not snapping enough pictures!

  • I LOVE taking pictures and I, too, have thousands of them saved up in the cloud from all different types of events. But lately, I’ve been putting my camera down and enjoying the moment. Thanks for a great read!

  • Yes. It is hard to find a balance when you love taking pictures like I do. But there are moments when you truly don’t need your camera, you just feel it in your soul. I need to put the phone down more and just soak up life. Thanks for the reminder

  • I really love this! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as we’re preparing for a big trip–I want to take photos of course, but I also want to make sure I take in everything fully!

  • This is great. There have actually been studies showing that if you take a picture you truly remember less detail 🙂 good observation and great story.

  • i have had this little pull in my heart at night lately. a pull that says nothing in that phone of yours is as important or precious as the person you’re with right now. and, well, the pull is right. some nights i get it right and put my phone by the wayside. others i fail and can’t set the darn thing down. regardless, i’m hearing the “put the camera down” whisper and responding.

    ALSO, we’re going to europe (specifically france and italy) for two weeks this september and now i have to go read all your trip notes.

  • I traveled to Italy with my older brother (the art historian) who forbade me to take pictures. He said we could go back later to take photos but he wanted me to experience things without trying to get the perfect frame. I wasn’t too happy about it at first but that trip taught me so much. I stood and experienced the Coliseum and took in the sounds around me. There are times now when I stop myself from taking photos of everything because I’m not truly enjoying it.

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