I was walking through Chinatown in New York City this weekend, making photographs of dumpling stalls, and I started thinking about moments, and what a moment really is in a photograph. I’m always telling people about moments and how important they are and how they can elevate an image, but what do I really mean when I say that?
A moment is what gives a photograph its life and breadth, and has the ability to elicit a response in the viewer. They pause for a second, notice the image, relate to it, maybe they even feel something. A moment can be just about anything: it is the instant of peak action in a frame, like the surprised look right before someone laughs, the light hitting the outline of a person’s body as they cross the street, or when all the different layers in a composition come together perfectly.
This approach to photography is my favorite; the ability to capture an image that’s anchored in a moment. When I’m shooting, these are the scenes that help me understand the world a little better, or maybe remember it, hold it steady for just a split second longer and if I am lucky, everything in the frame starts to come together with interesting layers, light and composition, and then the image says something new and different. It takes on meaning, has a weight to it and can hold the viewer’s eye a little longer.
I pulled a few images from some of my favorite New York City restaurant counters in order to help illustrate a moment; how sometimes they can be quiet and just about light, and sometimes they are all about timing and composition.