Before the Moment Passes


“A hundredth of a second here, a hundredth of a second there — even if you put them end to end, they still only add up to one, two, perhaps three seconds, snatched from eternity.”

Robert Doisneau – Weekend Guardian (London, 4 April 1992)

An arresting thought – over a lifetime a photographer is lucky to take two or three hundred really fine pictures, Considering that each one represents the merest fraction of a second, a life’s work in truth captures just a few seconds of eternity. Even if you add together all the photographers who have created good work, only an infinitesimal fraction of time has been recorded in these works.

What of the rest of time? Was it not worthy of recording? Or was it simply that no one was there with a camera, or they didn’t recognize the significance of the moment? It’s likely that the best photographic opportunities slip by unnoticed.

The lesson here is to pay attention! It’s one of the traits most artists possess – an obsession with paying attention to what’s around them, to small details, to everyday things observed from a new angle, to looking more closely or from further away, to fleeting light, to juxtaposition.

You only have the ability to capture a very few moments in time – choose them carefully!

5 responses to “Before the Moment Passes

  1. Quite a dilema! What’s worth recording?

    and yes, you (or you and Doisneau) are right: one of the most precious of qualities for an artist is being AWARE, attentive, open, ready to take the opportunity…

    Interesting your experiences with blurred and partially sharf forms, bob! (personally, I’m more of a sharf kind of guy but the experiences are always interesting…)

  2. Perhaps we could also turn this on its head…When I embarked on the brush with poetry series with Miki, I envisaged each painting as a ‘snapshot’ – a moment in time, and then began to look ‘either side’ of that captured moment…what had happened before it? What led up to that scene, and as a result, what would follow? The brief snatch of time captured by the lens also offers us the same possibilities. Yes, it perhaps misses the greater part of the true timeline, and what is happening therein, but it fires our synapses like an automatic shutter, causing us to wonder – what just happened? What is going to happen? Often far more intoxicating than the reality!

  3. Marybeth – thanks! Good to hear from you…

    Danu – Yes, so many choices – we can’t capture it all!

    Kev – Thanks for the wonderful insight – I agree, what often engages us is the contemplation of the storyline, of which the image is just a fragment. Our minds can’t resist looking left and right from there. A great comment!

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