Saturday, 24 August 2019

Taking Over the World One Photo at a Time: Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski

I am always exciting when I find author rants that reinforce my frustration with our crazy obsession for capturing every meal, every haircut, every sunset, every sneezing cat, new pair of shoes and Tuesday morning on camera. More so, I am thrilled when a great writer gives voice to my fear that if you’re wielding a flat slab of technology at a gig or the Grand Canyon or your Aunt Dorothy’s wedding, and watching it through the little screen instead of connecting with the moment, you might just be missing something.

And I think there are probably enough photos in the world now, don’t you? Scientifically speaking, if photos were still being printed, I’m guessing that the whole world could be papered over more than three times with the pictures snapped in a single day. Even then, rather than freaking out about the world being papered over with photos, people would take yet more photos of this strange new occurrence and send them to each other. And then we’d take even more photos of the people taking photos of the world papered over with photos … and on and on it goes.

But I’m digressing. In Skating to Antarctica, Jenny Diski travels to Antarctica, while her daughter attempts to track down Diski’s estranged mother, a woman who should remain condemned to the past. It is an engrossing human account and one that features Diski’s frustration with the prevalence of travellers at Antarctica who crack off endless rounds of film, already mentally fast-forwarding home to show the snaps to their eager family and friends, rather than savouring the beautiful moment themselves. And this is in the pre-digital nineties. I wonder what she thought about the late 2010s

The description that really got my motor running was that ‘photography is a modern, miniature form of colonization.’ What an amazing idea! ‘It … captures a slice of the world, makes it private territory, deprives others the right of access.’ The beautiful invention that originally enabled us to see the world from our armchairs has backfired, now depriving us if we do ever decide to get up off those armchairs and go out into the world? It has all already been colonised. There is nothing left to see.

My mind instantly turned this idea of colonization into a literal image – of access denied. A teenager takes a snapshot of a sunset and literally leaves a black, rectangular hole with curved corners in the sky where the image has been, then slips the stolen sunset into her pocket.

Access denied.

Hayley Sherman is an editor and ghost writer for hire. Hit her up!!