Photographs vs. Moments

May 29, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

     At a certain point, photography became a compulsion. It turned into I have to photograph; I must make images and when I don't life ends. A little dramatic I know, but I am sure other photographers feel the same way. 

     And one of my biggest fears in life is the hypothetical images I haven't taken. I don't want a day to go by where I wish I had taken a photograph or regret a missed opportunity. I am realizing how irrational this fear is. Slowly but surely the thought is invading my mind like the plague. Could I enjoy life more without my camera to always distract me? But with my camera in hand, am I really missing the moment? I mean I am there, I am experiencing it all.

     Jess Toro wrote a great article for the first issue of The Fix, Point Park Photography Collective's fine art magazine. In this article she talks about the photos she never took. Images from the early Punk scene and the crazy kids (herself included) who made this scene happen. She discusses the later regret of not photographing this movement but also talks about how the camera could have distracted her from the moment. 

     With this article floating in the back of my mind, I set out on summer adventures. On the flight over to Munich I was wedged in a middle seat and regrettably did not sleep a wink. I took this time to finish watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Not my cup of tea movie wise. I think it has already been established that I prefer the dark and creepy to the bad jokes of comedies. Still, it's one of those movies all photographers should probably watch at some point.

     Anyways, towards the end the photographer, Sean O'Connell, doesn't take the photograph and Walter kinda freaks out a little. Sean says, "Sometimes I don't. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don't like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.... Right here.. Right there."

     I think this is important, and certainly something I need to remember from time to time. 

     I am always so focused on capturing every moment that maybe, just maybe, sometimes I am missing the moment. I am there physically, but am I really present? 

     So, for the first time ever, I consciously choose not to take a photograph. I decided to keep the moment for myself. And I can't decided if it was the best or worst choice I have ever made. Let me set it up for you;

     My uncle was driving me south of the city. We were heading directly towards the mountains in the south with early morning sunlight coming from the east. The clouds hung low, clinging to mountaintops before the warm sun could burn them away. I could just barely make out the snow covered peaks. Mist rose from the hidden valleys between the peaks, twisting and turning, hiding from the coming light. 

     It was breathtaking. Absolutely stunning. I would kill to have that view every morning. And it would have made a great photograph. But I didn't pick up my camera. I didn't let it distract me from the moment. 

     And I have been second guessing myself ever since. 

     For the record, and for my pride, it was not a case of being unable to take the photo. I had my camera in my lap, uncapped and on the whole time. I almost picked it up to my eye several times but made a serious effort not to. I tried to pretend like it wasn't even there.

     It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was a great experiment. But was it the right choice? Sure, I had the moment and it was great. For now, I have the memory, but what will I do when it all fades away? How do I know that the memory is worth it. Should I have taken the photograph? Why does this bother me so much?

     I seriously don't have a single answer and that bothers me the most. Maybe I just need to keep trying this method of keeping moments for myself and see where it could lead me. I might have a panic attack before I can finish it though. Never try and take my compulsion away from me. 

     At least I can say I took advice from a comedy at least once in my life... 


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