Nothing shines a light on our 2018 narcissism epidemic than standing beneath one of the wonders of our world and realising that selfies are outnumbering lanterns a million to one.
People were too busy adjusting camera settings trying to get that perfect shot, too busy looking through a lens or posing, too busy pretending to be awe-inspired by what was around them while wondering how good they look, too busy adding filters, posting pictures and talking.
They were missing out on the preciousness of our existence and the Power Of Now.
Because no photograph, no video footage, no words could ever convey the magic of those moments as I stood there on Narawat Bridge looking up to a nights sky full of rice paper problems floating up into outer space.
Ninety-three million selfies are taken every single day. A thousand of them are up loaded to Instagram every single second. Dying from taking a selfie is now more common than dying from a shark attack.
The selfie stats are a little bit scary.
Wilkes created a concept called “Day and Night” which aims to change the way we look at the world. He photographs iconic locations, from a fixed vantage point, capturing the fleeting moments of humanity and light as time passes.
Using thousands of images shot over hours and hours, he creates one single image that transcends time and highlights the best moments he captured as he watched the place go from Day to Night.
His photographs are nothing short of marvellous and are particularly awe-inspiring for me as a big part of what I focus on when I travel is watching a place wake up and watching it fall asleep. I feel like lighting is everything – as are those tiny moments of magic that could go unnoticed if you’re not paying attention.
What I particularly liked about his talk was his reference to what he calls The Sacre Coeur Selfie.
He stood outside this astonishingly beauty-full building, which happens to be my absolute favourite place in Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the entire universe, watching thousands and thousands and thousands of people flock.
And what he noticed was that all these people did was use this hundred year old architectural masterpiece as a “been there, done that, got the selfie” kind of backdrop, often not even look at it, and then walk away for the next tourist tickbox on their list.
He found it to be an extraordinary example of the powerful disconnect between what we think the human experience is versus what the human experience is evolving into, and I could not agree more.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a fair few selfies on my phone and I can be a snapaholic when I want to be, but I have always been a big fan of trying to freeze a memory in my mind so that I can hold on to it forever.
And I remember vividly where it all began.
Half a lifetime ago, I lay down on a cold concrete ping-pong table on a tiny campsite, deep inside a pine forest somewhere near Fréjus in the South of France with my childhood sweetheart as we gazed up at the galaxies above.
We lay there holding hands and giggling, telling stories and predicting our futures and then we fell silent, our eyes fixated on the unknown worlds above us.
He squeezed my hand and turned to face me. I could just about make out the whites of his eyes and the chocolate buttons inside of them. He reached his hand up towards the sky, stole three stars and made them ours.
He said no matter what happens and no matter where we are, those stars are ours. They will always be shining down on us and remind us that we have Love.
It was one of those special moments that you never want to forget and one that I never will, because I pulled my hands away from his and made the shape of a camera with my fingers, looked through my imaginary lens and clicked my imaginary button.
And I can still see it now; that make-believe photograph is locked deep inside my memory until the end of time.
A few years after lying on that ping pong table in the South of France, that childhood sweetheart and I found ourselves road-tripping our way from Sacramento in the North of California right down through to surfer’s paradise, Coronado Bay and back again.
After an afternoon on Hollywood Boulevard and a quick visit to Hooters, we walked back along the avenue and stumbled across something that made my eyes light up – my first american thrift store.
I was in magpie heaven.
There were rails and rails of Hollywood glitz and glamour but what caught my attention was a pile of battered old polaroid cameras. Most of them had smashed lenses or parts missing, but I found one that seemed to work and it only set me back $2.99.
That polaroid camera sat in one of my treasure chests of memories gathering dust for over a decade. I romanticised about it coming to life one day, but for whatever reason I never tried to resuscitate it… until now.
So before I packed my bags and headed off on this journey, this Gap Year for Geriatrics, I invented something I like to call The Slow Snap.
I bought myself three packs of film, each containing eight miniature blank canvases. I was sceptical that after ten years in hiding this old, beaten contraption would have any life in it, but it did.
I wanted to capture some magic moments to take with me on my journey, and so I took five precious pictures.
The first was with my best friends baby, Margot, a little ball of loveliness with the cutest, cheekiest little face and electric blue eyes. The second was with another best friend, Katie, on one of our mischievous Kalo nights in.
The third was with my Mum, Dad and Brother outside a restaurant we went to for my leaving dinner, before we sat through some hilariously inappropriate jokes at The Comedy Club – the kind you don’t really want to listen to while sitting next to your parents.
And the last one was with my Grandma, The Idol, before we said our teary goodbye.