Catch the Emotion
I’ve always loved going “people watching”. It’s kind of like bird watching except that people are the focus instead of birds. Individually, people are strange and interesting creatures by nature. So, naturally if you gather them together into one centralized location, you’re bound to have moments unfold that are captivating and priceless. It may be a moment that is unpleasantly awkward, or a moment that tickles your funny bone; but, you can bet that eventually there will be “that moment”. The more moments that you see unfold, the more likely you will see the pattern. Then one day, all of the sudden, it’s as if your eyes have been opened and you can sense that “it” is about to happen. It’s almost seems predictable.
I love going shopping. Not because I love fashion or buying things for myself (which i totally do), but more so because I love to watch other people shopping. Unsuspecting people, herding through the stores, weaving in and out, like worker ants, working for their queen. Restless and angry, walking from one place to the next, seemingly aimless, in their clusters of odd shaped, differently colored, interestingly decorated, forms of the human body. I’ll sit for hours anticipating what will happen next. Most of the time I am wrong, but on those few rare occasions when I am right, I get so excited that I want to run up to the people in “the moment” and tell them that I had knew exactly what they were going to do. That I had orchestrated it down to the last detail in my mind and they were just the actors on my stage. I want to congratulate them on their fine performance, they played their part so well.
Of course I never do this, but I have thought about it many times. I’ve even thought, “What if I had a secret weapon that could freeze people in time, as they acted out the events I saw in my imagination”. Then, I could show the world that I was a super human, that I could predict the future. Imagine the power of being able to take time and freeze it… forever! That would be an amazing power to possess.
I sure felt like an idiot when I found out that this super human power had been around for way longer than I had been (by over 130 years). It existed and it had a name, it was called… a camera. It’s an amazing device and I am still amazed that a human being, not an alien being from another planet, came up with this time freeze, capturing device. I guess that this is what eventually lead me to photography. The camera changed my life.
It allowed me to catch the moments as I saw them coming. I could anticipate what might happen, be ready, and with the snap of the shutter, I could do what seemed to be humanly impossible. I could make time stand still. With a camera I could freeze frame moments as they happened (of course as I predicted them to happen), and then I could have that moment in time, eternally frozen.
The moment the shutter actuates… history is preserved… a story is chronicled… the present becomes the past… and life begins it’s final descent. A descent into what will one day be a crash and burn, the final moment, the last emotion. Then, all that is left is a motionless corpse, an empty pile of human flesh, and all emotion has been excreted. In the last moments, it is often the past moments that you are surrounded by. Old black and white photographs that have been smeared from years upon years of greasy fingerprints and neglect, the moments of your loved one’s life, a story told in small frozen frames.
I was fortunate enough to know all 4 of my grandparents and my great grandmother, before they passed into eternity. (One of my grandmothers is still alive and well.) I remember when they each passed away. We instinctively brought out all of the family photos and together we recounted all our fond memories. No one told us that this is what you are supposed to do when someone is dying, and we didn’t read it in a book. We just did it. It was nice to hear the stories that each photograph retold. The stories were full of sights and smells, feelings and emotions. I could see each photograph come to life in the imagination of the storyteller, as they would replay the moments before and after each solitary time capsule, which I was discovering for the first time.
I’ve never really thought of a photograph as being a time capsule before. However, the definition of a time capsule is this: A receptacle containing documents typical of the current period, placed in the earth for discovery in the future. If you think about it, that’s exactly what a photograph truly is. For me, photography is more about anticipating the moments as they come, and catching the emotion as it unfolds. Realizing that the embarrassing, awkward moments that so often happen in life (which we so quickly try to forget), are usually our fondest memories.
My grandfather was one of the most amazing men that ever walked the face of this planet. He was also the most godly man I have ever known. In his final years he was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, was see the man that I loved and admired so deeply, die such a slow and painful death. The strong man he had always been slowly being beaten to death by this disease that knew no mercy.
On one of our last visits to see Pa before he passed, Shayna (my wife) and I were eating dinner with him and my grandmother at his favorite restaurant. It was a small seafood place not far from the assisted living home where he had been living for a few years. The saddest part to me, would be when he would forget who my grandmother was. My poor grandmother would take his hand and lovingly try to reassure him that she was his sweetheart (They had been married over 50 years). Sometimes he would remember, but many times he would angrily protest, demanding that we bring back his wife and take him back to his own house. On this particular occasion he was remembering most things, which was nice.
After the waitress had delivered our dinner, we asked Pa if he would say the blessing. He lit up like a fir tree on Christmas eve, and immediately commenced to praying, with the same conviction and passion we were accustomed to. For a moment, it seemed as though he had never missed a beat. Fortunately, I had brought my camera and as soon as he had finished praying, I told him that I wanted to take a picture of him and Grandma. He slowly leaned in her direction, but with some hesitancy. Grandma smiled and said “C’mon now Cecil, give me a kiss!”, and he leaned in and gave her the sweetest kiss, gently on the forehead. Right as he kissed her, I quickly snapped the photo. 2 weeks later, he died. We had no idea that he was going to pass away so soon. The doctors had said it would probably be a few years before his physical health would begin to decline.
That moment, from Pa’s favorite little seafood restaurant, is now framed and on display in all of our families homes. It was one of those fleeting moments of emotion that you can never go back and catch. You have to be ready when the moment presents itself and catch the emotion as it comes.
For me, photography is not just about taking pictures, it’s about catching the emotion of a moment. That’s why we chose “Catch the Emotion” as Taproot Photography’s slogan. To “catch” something means: to receive or intercept something that is already in motion. To “capture” something means: to take something into possession by control or force. I honestly, never want to capture anything with my camera; but, if every now and then, I can catch a few authentic moments as they happen, I’ll be the best photographer that I know how to be. This is my goal on each and every photo shoot, to anticipate the moment, to be prepared, and to catch the emotion as it comes. This is an incredible challenge, and it’s why I love being a photographer.