This month the Rijks Art Museum in Amsterdam is asking visitors to put down their cameras and pick up pencils as part of a campaign to encourage people to draw things that interest them rather than quickly snapping a picture and moving on. “In our busy lives we don’t always realize how beautiful something can be,” says Wim Pijbes, Director of the Rijksmuseum. “We forget how to look really closely. Drawing helps because you see more when you draw.”
This is shared by Linda Henkal, a research professor at Fairfield University, Connecticut, who last year took her students to the University Museum and asked them to take photos of some of the works of art, and only observe others. When they were tested the next day, they were less able to remember details of objects that they had photographed. “We have this expectation that the camera is going to remember things for us,” says Henkal, “so we don’t have to continue processing that object and so don’t engage in the types of things that would help us remember it.” Henkel calls it a “photo-taking impairment effect”.
Cameras are, and always will, be a great way to record special occasions. But next time you really want to savour the moment, try observing it rather than snapping it. You might just appreciate it more in years to come.