Photos of food. Monuments. Flowers. Sunsets. You name it.
When a good number of us see that something we don’t see too often, we pause. Whip out our camera phones. Snap a photo of it. Or two. Sometimes three or more just in case the first two turned out blurry.
When our eye fancies something, some of us rush to snap a photo of it. Photo: Mabel Kwong
Then we upload the photos to Facebook or Instagram. Perhaps Twitter. It seems the cool, in-thing to do at the moment for anyone from Gen-Y regardless of race. Right…
Looking carefully, I wager 95% of the time, photos of food and mundane objects on my Facebook feed are posted by my Asian friends. A while ago, an eagled-eyed reader suggested in the comments section below one of my posts that Asians are absolutely obsessed with taking photos any place, any time.
Why? Why do so many Asians take so many photos? Why stop their friends from tucking in to lunch or stop sidewalk traffic just to take a photo of a sloppy burger or fleeting fireworks in the sky?
Some say cultural reasons are behind this phenomenon. I’m inclined to think this is why but since no comprehensive study has been done on this topic, the reasons us Asians love taking photos are only speculative at best:
1. Keeping track of glorious food eaten
Food is a big part of Asian cultures. Traditional recipes are often passed down from generation to generation and festivities are accompanied by big feasts (think Lunar New Year reunion dinners and Asian wedding banquets). My parents have a ton of cookbooks on our bookshelves at home. Every now and then I’ll catch them leafing through the pages, eyes fixated on not the recipes but the mouthwatering glossy images of char siew and char kway teow. One can say that for us Asians, taking photos of food is in a sense a casual means of commemorating dining experiences.
With fusion cuisine ever so popular with Asians today, sometimes it’s hard to remember every exotic dish we get to eat. But taking pictures might help. Once my friend and I returned to a Turkish restaurant and we wanted to order a delicious dish that we ate here previously. Neither of us could remember what it was and the waitress wasn’t able to help us out. Sniffing the aromas of Turkish spices wafting around us, I scrolled through my phone’s gallery, wishing I had a picture of that dish.
2. Capturing memorable moments
Many Asians have incredulous work ethics and are hard workers up to the point they’ll hesitate to go on a holiday. Those in Hong Kong and China are known to stay in the office up to twelve hours a day. I see many of my Asians friends who work in demanding corporate jobs post photos on Facebook of the absolutely mundane things they see on getaways. A rusty bicycle. A trolley of luggage. A can of Coke. Who can fault them for getting so excited seeing something “out of the ordinary”, so excited that they want to capture the moment forever in some way?
3. Showing off
“Having face” or achieving a certain status is greatly admired in Asian cultures. Posting up a selfie of our Asian selves at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, holding a cup of gelato in Italy or dressed up all doll-like cutesy/manly suave on social media screams in-your-face, “Been there, done that”, not missing out on a moment. Chances are some of us Asians secretly desire others will “oooh” and “aaah” over our latest escapades, be it in a foreign country or our own backyards.
There has been discussion proposing we can’t explain this phenomenon without being racist – facial recognition camera features force Asians with “small eyes” to retake shots. But this can happen to non-Asians as well. Asians are also obviously not the only ones who take lots and lots of photos, so this whole snapping photos phenomenon is more or less a newfound universal, social trend as opposed to a race thing.
I’m guilty of taking quite a handful of photos while I’m out and about in Melbourne. I don’t usually take photos of food but rather quirky inanimate objects, nature and crowds with a digital camera. During my down time, I like going through these photos that I’ve taken, reflecting on moments in time and what stories lie entwined within these random snapshots of history.
And it is these solitude times of photo gazing that get me thinking about life. Culture. People. My source of inspiration and ideas for this blog.
Do you or those around you take photos all the time with phones?