Selfie Beach

Qixingtan Beach in Hualien, Taiwan. Many people posing for photos on an overcast day.
Qixingtan Beach, Hualien.

Look closely. How many people are engaged in the process of taking a photo, either holding a camera or posing for one on this unInstagram-worthy day at Qixingtan Beach in Hualien? I counted 37, out of 92 people. And this is only the people I could be sure about. I don’t know if this is a lot. It struck me as a lot.

Anywhere you go in Taiwan, any “insta-worthy” scene, everyone has their camera out. Everyone seems to have their own signature pose, which leads me to wonder, How exactly does that come about? I’d love to see “Evolution of the Pose”—a photo essay comprised of discarded photos never intended to be seen, building to the creation of that perfect pose. Someone get on that.

That may sound like a critique, but it is far superior to anything I do. When someone shouts “Cheese” I stand there with an idiot grin, like I just got hit on the head with a brick. I have no idea what to do with my arms. They dangle, or I fold them across my chest. My feet remain firmly planted, knees straight, eyes forward, like I was standing for review on a military parade ground. I see a camera pointed at me, I react the way a vampire reacts to his own reflection. I wish I had the same verve the Taiwanese have before the camera.

Fact: More than a trillion photos are taken worldwide every year. Do a quick back of the napkin calculation, we get 173 photos for every living, breathing human on Planet Earth.

It’s safe to say infants aren’t taking photos (yet). Nor the Amish, nor hunter-gatherers retaining the old ways and living in remote places beyond the reach of civilization. There are people, in other words, who have never taken a photo, never posed for one, and never felt like they are missing out. And there are many more who have bigger things to worry about. All of this is to say, some of us take more photos than others. Some of us contribute more, much more, to the photographic record (blogger raises his hand; guilty as charged).

A trillion photos per year. I wonder what the Taiwanese contribute? I doubt anyone knows (or cares), but my feeling is they take more than the average. If you were to map photos taken across the world and color code the map for photographic density (a term I just made up denoting photos taken per square mile/km), if this were possible, and if bright red represented the highest photographic density, I daresay Taiwan would be glowing like an Instagram sunset.