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Visualcy

Literacy is not the only necessity in a visual culture.

The doctor was an enthusiastic amateur photographer, sporting a pricey Canon digital SLR. His college-aged daughter seemed more interested in my good-looking, single friend than in the fine points of wildlife photography, but she had a point-and-shoot camera of her own. We were in southern Kenya's Masai Mara doing what Westerners usually do there, much to the perplexity (and profit) of the local residents: tearing up the virgin veldt in four-wheel-drive Land Rovers, cameras at the ready, in search of photogenic animals.

One of the most reliable instincts of modern people, at times of surpassing transcendence—witnessing the first kiss at a wedding, watching our children's first steps, encountering a family of cheetahs gnawing on a freshly killed gazelle—is to grab a camera. At other places and times people might have written a poem, sung a song, or carved a totem pole. But we, captive to the notion that the only lasting reality is virtual, illuminate our transcendent moments with ...

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