On May 22 I photographed former President Bill Clinton’s campaign stop for his wife Hillary at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center in Stockton. About 700 people were jammed into the center’s exhibition hall. I shot the event from with the rest of the media from a press riser at the back of the room and another set off to the right of the main stage.
The event proceeded like pretty much most other political rallies. A series of local dignitaries get up to the podium to speak each saying things in of support for their candidate and against their opponent. Finally the keynote speaker is introduced, in this case President Clinton.
There were fewer people on that side but it was still very crowded. I managed to get about 3 or 4 people back from the front.As Clinton approached one young man in front of me and slightly to the left turned his back to the former president. At first I thought it may have been some sort of protest. But he smiled and raised his cellphone when Clinton passed behind him, shaking hands with other spectators, to take a selfie. He was close enough to reach out and shake his hand and could have easily done so but decided to take a picture instead.
A recent study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that that people taking pictures of an event may actually enhance their enjoyment of the event. Researchers conducted a series of experiments involving 2,000 subjects in taking photos of different activities. They found that the subjects tended to be more engaged in the activity if they took pictures of it.
There was one caveat though. The subjects’ enjoyment was not enhanced if they were actively participating in the experience. For example in one experiment participants were asked to either do an arts and crafts project or to merely observe it. While the observers did experience increased enjoyment when taking pictures, those who participated in the activity did not when they took pictures of the same event.
At the Clinton event, most of the spectators were not able to get close enough to say a few words with him or shake his hands so taking pictures was probably the best they could do. But the young man who took the selfie would have most likely been better off had he just reached out to make a brief connection with the former president.
As a photographer I’m all for taking pictures but there’s an appropriate time and place for everything. Don’t miss out on participating in life rather than just photographing them.