I saw a feed on Facebook recently, posted by a friend, which asked her followers where they were or what they were doing when they received the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. The question obviously dated her and those who responded, but it got me thinking about those significant events in each generation that pinpoints a certain day, a certain month, a moment when life irrevocably changed for better or worse. This not only happens in epochs and eras, it happens in personal ways too. Some of them are captured in a picture- your first car, blowing out birthday candles at a party, your date for the Prom, time spent with at a favorite place or with a best friend; each of these moments take hold in your life story and define who you are in a deep and enduring way. They are benchmarks on the timeline of your life and each moment is captured forever in your memory thanks to the picture in your hand.
Photographers are moment stealers. Whether on film or in a digital file with the press of a button they freeze a moment and make it theirs in a picture. The thoughtful photographer will do this with uttermost care. They recognize the moment they are capturing is precious even if it is something as simple as feeding a flock of greedy seagulls on a blustery winter’s day. The “Happy Snapper” shoots haphazardly, wondering if they’ll get “anything good”. But for those who treasure the ability to preserve for posterity a moment that was significant to someone, capturing the moment becomes a visual trophy of success. It is something that is gained by “being at the right place, at the right time”, studying and calculating the light to get the perfect shot, or by waiting patiently to see the moment unfold.
Life has a way of causing us to forget how precious moments are until someone asks the question, “Where were you when…”, or we are riffling through a pile of papers and we stumble on a long forgotten photo which causes us to pause and think about “the moment”. Should “capturing the moment” only pertain to putting it on film or in a digital file? I’m starting to think that every moment is special, even if I don’t have a camera in my hands. But for the times when I do capture “that moment”, moments have become even more treasured because they are now preserved forever thanks to the connection of my finger to the shutter.