GIVE ME A MOMENT – Holly Foster Media

GIVE ME A MOMENT

Moment is a word I never really thought about much, that is until today.

It’s easy to understand that a minute takes 60 seconds, and that a second is very short, but how long is a moment? Because I can’t quantify it exactly, I sort of slough it off. Take it for granted even.

The formal definition is “a very brief period of time,” which really doesn’t tell us anything. But when you think about it, it’s the word people use when something important happens. When it’s significant, we call it a moment. The word exudes a sort of magical quality.

A photograph captures a moment. A good photograph causes us to feel something. That emotion compels us to share it with someone.

Four types of photographs

Joe Elbert, Managing Editor for Photography at the Washington Post breaks down photographs into four categories. In order of importance, lowest to highest, they are:

  • Informational (most basic, identifies things in a factual way)
  • Graphically Appealing (intellectually appealling but no emotional impact)
  • Emotional (elicits emotion from the viewer)
  • Intimate (personal and private)

Five moments

The following five photographs were designed to capture a moment; sometimes pleasant, other times not. Either way, they are an opportunity to peek into our daily lives and uncover the emotions that drive us each and every day.


Pondering

As I was getting ready to order lunch recently, it occurred to me that I was looking at a slice of New Jersey history. Diners have a certain feel for common folk like me — neighborhood people gathering together to share stories and get a meal. A friend of mine describes the food as “not great, but always good.”

The angle had to capture the tube-like shape of old fashioned diners, and the mind’s preparation as you anticipate the moment your server will ask “What’ll you have?” As for color, it had to be classic black and white. Classification? Informational and emotional, at least for anyone who appreciates the diner experience.


Respite

Trenton, New Jersey, like most cities, has homeless people. At first glance I was hesitant to take this picture, but when I realized I could capture this gentleman’s image without compromising his identity, I snapped the shot.

Most of us sleep on a comfortable bed, so when we see someone napping on a metal bench, it causes us to feel sympathy for this person’s plight. Or for some, to quickly move on and distance themselves from the stark reality of homelessness.

Lots of hard surfaces in this photo. Two benches, two trash cans, and a brick pavement. Hard surfaces, harsh realities. The choice to convert it to black and white intensifies the emotion.

Category? Informational, emotional, and possibly intimate since sleeping is typically a private experience.


Reflecting

This shot is informational and emotional, especially for me.

My daughter is a bride-to-be. I am not exaggerating when I tell you I have taken at least a hundred shots of her in different dress shops looking for the perfect dress. Most are informational, but this one definitely captures a moment.

Her “real” self, clamped in the back for fit, gazes intently at the dress. The poofy dress that appears next to her reflection hints at the Cinderella-type feeling new brides anticipate their big day will deliver.

The shiny bronze framed mirror adds a rich flavor to the photo, evoking an emotion of the formality of a wedding and the rings typically exchanged on such an important occasion. Its shape also adds a modern feel to a traditional act. The long rack in the background tells the viewer she is still shopping, and conveys the weight of this single purchase that means so much to so many.

Most importantly to me, her expression is priceless. Youthfulness, hopefulness, and trust in a tradition that is quickly falling by the wayside in today’s society. Ultimately she is asking herself, “Could this be it?”


Anticipation

By now I’m sure you’ve realized that every photo is informational. This one adds the emotion of anticipation.

Do you like my checkerboard floor? It actually adds interest to the photograph, and coincidentally shows how a photo can use the rule of thirds to make a composition more visually interesting. Your eye enters at the largest element (the dog), moves to the hand offering the treat, and ends up on the sandals (my feet).

When I showed this photo to my daughter, she said it made her feel like she was holding the treat. The shoes make the photo more intimate, and show the trust between the two subjects.


Dog Interrupted

To finish up, this is the photo that happened before the “Anticipation” photo. My cat Roddy, who thinks he is a dog, mistakenly thought this treat was for him 🙂 Luckily I was able to think quickly enough to grab this shot, which shows Roddy’s personality to a “T.”

Informational and emotional, but definitely not staged. I could easily make the argument that it is also intimate, due to the closeness of the subject to the camera.

The lesson here is to remember to be flexible; your moment may arrive when you least expect it.

until nxt time …

References

Gitner, S. (2016). Multimedia Storytelling for Digital Communicators in a Multiplatform World. New York: Routledge.

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4 thoughts on “GIVE ME A MOMENT

  1. Holly,
    You do a wonderful job in this post capturing the essence of a moment and how it translates into photography. I believe you’re right when you say that we associate moments with a magical connotation. In a moment’s time, we have experienced something so impactful that we have to say it was a moment. And yet, while it only means a short period of time, it is often a sweet and memorable time, thus a moment. Similarly, your photography captured beautiful and simple moments. The photo of the homeless man on the bench told a story in itself. It’s not often you come by someone sleeping on a bench and oftentimes we tend to chalk it up to misfortune. I feel you intensified the fact that homelessness is not a one size fits all issue by using the black and white filter. Also, the photo of your daughter is a classic and timeless angle, but yet still a very special moment which we can see in her reflection. It’s just a moment to stop and gaze it, which is exactly what photography is.

    1. Thanks Shayla.

      It is such a simple concept — a moment — and yet the older I get the more I realize that often miss so many of them. Good photography forces us to compose the shot, which compels us to slow down and consider how the elements will work in concert together. In a word it teaches us patience.

      Perhaps the greater lesson in this exercise is to recognize there is value in slowing down our distraction-filled lives to anticipate and look for the moments.

      Thanks again for sharing.

      Best-
      Holly

  2. Hi Holly, great job with your photos! Very powerful and reflective storytelling in each of them. You’re exactly right when talking about finding the right moment. We can set up a shot all we want and expect the perfect moment right then and there but really its when we least expect it like you state in your final sentence. While I do love the diner shot and leading of lines of people in the booth my favorite shot has to be the anticipation photo. Seeing the checkerboard floor from a birds eye view was very visually appealing and the lighting was just enough where the dog and treat where able to be outlined and separated from the background thanks to their color. But what I really liked about this shot was how you made it into a perspective by having the viewer feel like they are holding the treat. Talk about making someone feel like they are right in the middle of this moment. This helps people to visualize the story by playing out the scenario in their head because you were able to transport them right into the story so quickly.

  3. Hi Bret.

    The anticipation photo took two rounds of shooting and a lot of patience to get it right. It’s fortunate for me that my Cavalier is a patient soul and really likes her “cookies.” The second round of shooting was so long she actually got up and walked away, which is unusual for her 🙂

    I read your “Intro to Visual Storytelling” and blog and wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the photo of your dog gazing out the window after the rain. Your choice to wait until later in the day really paid off. Well done!

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Best-
    Holly

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