The camera never lies.’ That, presumably, is why the modern wedding is not complete without the roving eye that will bring you a carefully edited moving memorial of the big day. Or why parched and exhausted guests wait while the clown with the Kodak carefully choreographs mannered set pieces. Yet our attitude to the camera is ambiguous. We may not share the fear of primitive tribesmen that the ‘light box’ will steal our souls. But somehow no photograph is ever truly ‘me’. Something is missing. The two dimensional image, even when moving in glorious technicolor, is never quite the reality. When bride and groom review the video, it is essentially someone else’s memory. It is objective and thus depersonalized. It would be a pity if it replaced their real memories of each other and their interreaction with family and friends. On film we relate to the camera, not to each other, which is the greater reality.
Even when players are not directly relating to camera, as in sport, the camera is a poor guide to reality. It foreshortens distance, adjusts light, irons out the pitch and, from its heightened vantage, can never show the vision, conjured out of physical exhaustion, that makes the unforgettable moment.
On pilgrimage recently I was amazed at how few pilgrims actually stopped to pray at the martyrs’ shrines. The precious moments were spent instead constructing a photo of the memorable moment. For most of us life will afford one chance to pray there. Sad then that so many came away with no more than a mediocre aide-memoire of a moment, an encounter that they had somehow missed.
If the camera really told the truth, we would take one to every funeral. Here, surely, amidst the tears, the regrets, the belated kindnesses, the faithful and the faithless seek a solidarity in sorrow in the face of ultimate reality. We don’t, of course, for a variety of reasons. But, above all, because we know no camera can begin to tell the truth that is there.