The Moment of Capture Defined, or the experience a photographer has when they find the perfect moment to press the shutter has always intrigued me. I wanted explore the context of art in modern society, and to help determine the emotional connection we have with it. I wanted to know more about the role artistic expression plays in our lives, and to help explain the creative process.
Most people have an emotional connection to art, whether it’s a song, a painting, or a photograph. It’s that feeling you get when you hear your favorite song that takes you to another time, or you see an image that moves you in some way, or that rush you get when you’re doing something that makes you happy.
It’s in these moments that the right brain wins and your left brain quiets let you explore the creative state. It’s basically tunnel vision; a concentrated state that seems to completely engulf you in the moment without having other thoughts to distract your concentration.
When I thought more about it, I wanted to find an answer to why we are drawn to art, to photographs, to different art forms, to different experiences. Why is art, and the process of creating something significant to us as human beings?
Everything I read seemed to take me further away from a real answer to my questions: What is the artist seeing? What is the artist experiencing? Why am I drawn to this? Why does it matter to me? Why do I have a compulsion to create something like this?
“The real question is not what you look at but what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
I realized photography, or any art form for, is a connection the viewer has with the artist. It is way to anchor yourself to something emotional and altruistic, and to also experience someone else’s perspective.
I wanted to view these questions from a different perspective, and my practice of meditation seemed to have distinct parallels between artistic creation and the practice of staying in the present moment. Both take lots of practice and concentration, and both are a way of channeling to obtain a transcendent experience.
Meditation is the practice of trying to see the world as it really is — an impermanent place constantly changing and in motion. Meditation is rooted in the Vedic (Hindu) and Buddhist religions. In both of these traditions it is a path to achieve liberation, freedom, awakening, enlightenment, and to end the cycle of death and rebirth (reincarnation).
I see meditation and photography as a confluence of similar practices. Meditation is being able to separate yourself from that voice in your head that’s constantly making your mind wander in all directions. Meditation concentrates on the breath in order to obtain a separation from this internal dialogue.
The breath is focused on during meditation because it is an anchor that takes you back to a passive and observant state of being when your mind wanders. It brings you back to reality — to a clear place that connects you to reality.
I think photography is similar in its practice. It takes years to master, and it seeks to represent reality from a fleeting moment that will only ever happen once. Meditation shows you the impermanence of everything in the world, and keeps you in the moment. Photography puts you in the moment and allows you to record a fraction of a second that will never happen again.
Meditation and photography have a similar connection in that there is a feeling of being entirely connected to the world, or within photography, the photographer is connecting with the viewer.
Both meditation and photography are a conduit for the experience of being in the moment, or an altered state of complete concentration. Its similar to when an athlete talks about having an out of body experience, or tunnel vision, where they feel like everything is just clicking perfectly. They are concentrated on the task at hand, and the artist similarly is able to concentrate on capturing the essence or emotion of their experience.
The photographer is in a concentrated state waiting for something to happen, or a subject to present itself. These fleeting moments cannot be repeated, and the feeling the artist and the viewer obtain from making or viewing this is an emotional connection to reality.
Some photographers may practice for a lifetime and can never be able to catch that perfect moment. It is this practice, like meditation, it compels a photographer to become better with each shutter click, and to cultivate a style and vision that develops over time.
Henri Cartier-Bresson and many others in photographers have been introspective about the significance and meaning of their work.
“As far as I am concerned, taking photographs is a means of understanding which cannot be separated from other means of visual expression. It is a way of shouting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one’s own originality. It is a way of life.” — Henri Cartier-Bresson
For Alfred Stieglitz and Minor White it was Equivalence. Minor White wrote extensively on the subject, and particularly in his essay, “Equivalence: The Perennial Trend.”
“Equivalence is a function, an experience, not a thing. Any photograph, regardless of source, might function as an Equivalent to someone, sometime, someplace. If the individual viewer realizes that for him what he sees in a picture corresponds to something within himself—that is, the photograph mirrors something in himself—then his experience is some degree of Equivalence. (At least such is a small part of our present definition.)” — Minor White
The Moment of Capture Defined is Precise-Moment.com’s maxim because the mission of the magazine is to contextualize and understand photography at the precise moment of capture. The goal is also to explore the purpose of photography from different perspectives, and find new ways of looking at the medium to help photographers (and viewers) translate their meaning and connection to their photography.