In Praise of the Vacation Snapshot

April 9, 2013  |  Personal, Travel


This one will be a little bit of me talking to me.

I like to travel, and I like photography. Sometimes those two pursuits go very well together, but sometimes they don’t. The fact is that the photography enthusiast on vacation can very quickly drive her family crazy. Nothing is more boring than following someone around while she tries to get the shot. And, really, is that what a family vacation is for? Traveling for photography is wonderful. So is traveling to spend special time with the people you love. It’s just really important to remember which kind of trip you’re on.

Sometimes it’s more important to be there than to find ways to prove you were there.

But just because you’re not seeking that perfect shot of [fill in the blank] at dawn, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take pictures. Photography really can be just for fun sometimes. It’s fun to capture moments of silliness or joy as souvenirs of time spent together. They won’t become part of your artistic body of work. They’re part of your life.

So I look at this picture. In 1997, our family traveled to Italy to visit cousins living in Naples. Several days into the trip we all went to Pompeii. It was hot, Hilary was six, and she had just about seen her limit of marble statues on pedestals. She decided if she couldn’t beat ’em, she’d join ’em, and show us all how it ought to be done.

Is there anything special about this picture? No. This is definitely not art. But it takes me right back to that day, that moment. It tells me a story that makes me smile. And sixteen years later, I know I treasure this much more than I would a perfectly composed and executed image of Mount Vesuvius at sunset.

It’s a story that is specific to our family, and a snapshot that only matters to us. But I wonder if there isn’t something universal there too. Maybe it makes you think of trips you’ve taken with family or friends, and the little moments you shared. Maybe it reminds you to go find those pictures and look at them again.

Doesn’t that have value?

And, really. Isn’t she cute?


  1. I agree about the importance of snapshots, but I also think this is a good photo in itself. It is probably better than a classic image of Mt Vesuvius at sunset, because there surely are a lot of those already. I find this photo striking, and in the right context it would be art.

    • That’s so nice of you to say, Franz. I may be too close to the memory and the story of the day to see this photo any other way. I’m certainly glad I have it, though. (And I’m so glad to see I isolated her head against the darkness between the columns. Probably just a happy accident, but . . . go me!)

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