There’s this book… It’s called The Moment It Clicks.
The book in question has been rattling around in my head for years. (I figured I’d better write all this down before I forget it and start wandering through my days engaging in a regimen of limited physical activity and a carefully monitored diet of soft foods.)
I figure photographers are like trees. As we get older in this business, we grow rings. We trace our path year after year, and where we have been and how we grow is in fact written down, on our minds and our bodies, even if we are unaware.
It’s like a secret tattooing that one can only see in a certain light. All of that experience, heartache, toil and joy, inscribes itself on us, indelibly. Sometimes the writing comes easy, in flowing, effortless script. Other times, the messages we bear are angry, as if written by a graffiti artist with a can of screaming red paint. Sometimes it is done slowly, painfully, like a fourth grader with a penknife, scratching his name on his desk, just so future classes will know… I sat here. I thought, worked, goofed off, ogled the little red haired girl, made myself a nuisance…all right here. Remember me. Our pictures are our scribbles and scratches, both on ourselves and on the world around us. Take a look, if you please, take a look. And remember.
[More after the jump]
I have always loved Ani DiFranco’s music. Her song “Both Hands,” is an ode to desperate lovers, writing graffiti on each other’s bodies insistently, passionately, using both hands. Other tenants listen to the swan song of their love through the air shaft. When they are done, the story of how much they loved and how hard they tried is written all over the bedroom walls of their tiny apartment, and they move out and move on. Then the landlord comes up, and… paints over it all.
Aha! The landlord can’t do that to us. We’re photographers, and the pictures we are writing will stick around, like footprints in concrete. Tough to get rid of. Impossible to paint over. A picture lasts. Because in a frenetically moving world, it is still.Isn’t it an amazing thing that in a world that only wants to move faster, we are trying to make things still? How quaint. Recalcitrant sons of bitches, us photographers. We don’t go with the flow. No wonder we’re such a pain in the ass.
So I wrote this book, and in the preface, I write down why I wrote it…
“What you see on these pages is not about a particular place, people, time, or cause. It’s not about one type of picture or another. It’s not about sportsmen or fashion models or war or politics or the news of the day.
It’s about being a photographer.
It’s about the sheer joy of clicking the shutter…repeatedly! The sweet sound of the shutter and the explosion that occurs in your head and your heart when you make the shot. The deal is the shot, you know. You make the picture and you know something just froze solid in a shifting world. Something stabilized, for all time. You just hung your hat on a moment that otherwise would be gone forever, and now you can go back and take a look at that moment, be it amazing or ordinary, any time you want.
It’s about your eye in the camera as the light hits just right. It’s about the slight turn of your subject’s face that speaks the truth. It’s about holding your breath as you shoot. It’s about the nerves, the joy, and the terror of wondering if you got it. And then dancing about, punching holes in the air when you know you do. It’s about… the moment it clicks.”
The thing is, it disappeared from the shelves almost immediately. Sorry for that. Book publishing is not an exact science, so publishers are always cautious in their numbers for a first run. I can tell you this, though. They are scrambling on the second run, and printing about 25,000 as we speak. It should hit the stores again within a couple of weeks.To all who have commented, blogged, or just sent me an attaboy email, many thanks. The book seems to resonate a bit with folks, and I am very grateful and humbled.
Mentioned in this post:
- The Moment It Clicks