That’s not what you do with a camera

Don’t get me wrong. I love cameras. I really do. I just don’t have the desire to stick one down my pants.

Call me crazy. I thought that when you took a picture, you had to step back, look through the viewfinder, and say, “One, two, three!” Given Congressman Anthony Weiner’s subject matter, you’d have to be a contortionist.

Since when did our private parts constitute a photo? Didn’t a photo used to be Mt. Rushmore? Times Square? Your kids on the way to the prom?

Not anymore. Weiner (and I’m sorry, but the name alone makes this story embarrassing) has given new meaning to “flash photography.” The Democratic U.S. representative and wannabe mayor of New York City is embroiled in a fiasco of his own texting, sending lewd pictures of himself to admiring fans.

And to think, folks used to be happy with an autograph.

A most confusing time

Now, I won’t ponder whether Weiner should survive this. Between Charlie Sheen, Newt Gingrich, Tiger Woods and Eliot Spitzer, I am convinced that Americans will forgive you anything but boredom.

So the fact that Weiner was seemingly fascinated by his own naked image, that he played peekaboo like a kid in a sandbox, that he actually prefaced a dirty photo with a text that said, “Wanna see?” – none of it really concerns me, because 1) I’m not voting for the guy, 2) I’m still in shock and 3) I am worried, selfishly, about something else.

When did I get SO OUT OF TOUCH?

Honestly. There are many wrongs that I can at least understand. There are temptations that I – and we all – struggle to resist. But never, NEVER, did I look at a camera and go, “Hmmm …”

He took pictures of WHAT?

Somebody explain this to me. It’s not just the congressman. Could Brett Favre, Mr. All About Football, really have texted an image of his privates to a Jets employee? He once seemed so … sensible.

On a radio show, I recently spoke to a woman who had returned to the dating scene after years of marriage. She claimed she receives numerous photos of private parts from the men she dates – some she encourages, some she does not.

She also said she is in her 60s.

Heaven help us.

Photography before the Internet

Have you ever heard of Johann Zahn? He was a 17th-Century German priest. He also was an author, a student of light and the man credited with creating the idea of a handheld camera.

I can just see old Johann now, sitting in the abbey, imagining how his invention could change the world, allow history to be preserved, help chronicle the human race for future generations.

“And don’t forget,” his trusty sidekick chimes in, “you can shove it down your pants!”

For the life of me, I will never get this. As a dedicated practitioner of underwear, I always have felt safest when there is a layer of modesty between MY outside and THE outside.

Now comes Congressman Weiner, the shutterbug who keeps opening the shutters. You’ve heard of snap and shoot? Now it’s unsnap and shoot. This is his gift to his constituents.

I think we need to bring back Fotomat booths. Remember them? You dropped your film off, you came back the next day, they handed you the prints. It was supposed to be a private transaction. But every now and then, the person behind the counter would smile and say, “Looks like you had a nice vacation.”

And you knew they peeked.

Maybe we need more of that. Because the concept of shame in America has gone the way of the zipper: down and out.

What’s ironic is that Weiner’s photos, developed the old-fashioned way, could never have been seen by millions the way they have been now. Just one lonely Fotomat guy, who could have looked at the congressman, raised an eyebrow, and said, “Really?”

I miss those days.

Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. His new play, “Ernie,” runs through July at City Theatre in downtown Detroit. It was inspired by the story of legendary Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell. For information, go to ernietheplay.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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