Capturing the Moment
By Alex Call
I have taken up photography in the last year. My girlfriend Lee-Anne Carver, a wonderful, spiritual photographer, encouraged me to buy a decent camera after she saw a few of my cell phone shots. She said I had an eye, something you can’t acquire; it’s a gift. Well, I have now seen enough photography to know that there are people who really do have very good eyes, and I’m not sure how or if I fit in with these exalted shooters, but what I know for sure is that I really get off on drenching myself in the joy of shooting. It’s the same kind of fun as it was to bang out the Chuck Berry riffs and Beatle songs endlessly on an electric guitar as a teenager; it engenders the same single-pointed attention that songwriting and writing, and for that matter, fly-fishing, inspired in me as an adult. In photography, the process is a huge part of the goal. The first aspect, taking the photos, can be almost orgasmic: working within the framework of the light, the subject, the angle, the moment; getting lucky. The second really enjoyable part of photography is looking at the pictures. No waiting for film these days. We load them up on the computer and instantly beginning culling and editing. Photographers look for the good “capture”, the Capture of the Moment, when subject, light, and timing all came together for an unrepeatable, undefinable split second. Ah, the Moment! That’s what the camera is good at. The lens can focus in the shutter can stop time dead, and you get to look it a moment over and over. I’ve always wanted to do that. When I was younger and lived at the beach I would watch the waves roll endlessly in. The bigger ones would feather at the crest when the wind was offshore and there was that sublime moment just as the wave was at its peak as it arched forward over onto itself; my, how I wanted to freeze that moment. Of course, the waves never obeyed my silent command and my sense of longing for the eternal moment was simply a feeling that lingered until the next big set came in. The problem with the Moment is that no matter how hard you try, you can’t capture it. Ok, you can take a photograph. Voila! We see an image of a certain time and place taken from a certain perspective. It is a representation of true uniqueness. But it’s the camera’s moment, not even ours. Ours is seen by the limited filters of senses and thought. We only “see’ a tiny portion of reality; we can’t even begin to comprehend what reality might be with our senses and minds. We see the photograph on a screen or paper. The actual moment? It’s gone. You see, on a very basic level, by the time what we call a moment happens, it’s over. The “moment” itself is so fleeting it simply can’t be recorded. The fastest supercollider can never catch it, either. What we see is a construct of our minds, a projection of what we have learned in our brains and in our bodies. In term of physics, we might call what we see nothing but a display of shimmering photons, or whatever photons are made of. Our minds create and roll out an instant memory, based on limited perception, as our “reality”. This is the problem. We think of the moment as existing; we see the world, we touch things, we remember (vaguely). But there’s in nothing really solid there at all. Just as we look out into the stars and see vast space, so are the microcosmic worlds almost entirely space. The Moment exists not in the future and not in the past, but only in one endless, beginningless point of, what? The moment can’t be measured or held, and certainly not captured. What we see as “reality” is in fact not possible as reality; it only an agreement we have with our minds to not go completely mad. We instantly categorize every single thing we sense and event we perceive as one “thing” or another. Most often we assign a “good” or “bad” to it as well. We fail to realize that our world cannot be regarded as solid. It is in a very basic sense absolutely impermanent. So we look at our captured moment on a piece of glossy photo paper and smile; what a great slice of the pie it is. Our deeper minds, that essence beyond words and senses knows and recognizes this unique fragment as being part of its own family, part of “creation”. We recognize that each fragment is seen from a singular, never-again perspective, unique, yet so like the others to give us the feeling of being permanent and lasting. We take joy at the expression of beauty or sorrow on the screen, on the paper. It is not reality; even the act of seeing it is its own fragment of moment, just like the image. We cannot separate the seeing from the seen, though our minds certainly try, and give the appearance of succeeding. I will never see beyond what I can see while I remain in my senses and thoughts. They are by their nature very limited, though excellent, means of organizing the world appearing before me. Perhaps my spiritual seeking will give me further glimpses of something “beyond” or more “present” from time to time; I’ve had a couple of spark-like tastes in my life. But for now I will point and click the camera and load the images on the computer and marvel, in that moment, at the previous moments I’ve captured. I hope you like them too sometimes. I love seeing photographs of the inexplicable, mysterious world. It’s a beautiful moment.