I am in downtown Lisbon. It’s not a photo trip and I don’t have much time. But I have the camera with me. I turn a corner and there’s this amazing back side of a building, with old water downpipes going across the run-down facade. I stop for a second.
Then I see this girl at the window. Her profile is drawn perfectly against the darkness of the room behind her. She’s lighting a cigarette and talking on the phone. I quickly take two photos before she disappears.
It’s only later, when I look at these shots on a monitor, that I see her expression. She’s neither happy, nor too sad. She’s inside her own story. Maybe she’s in a call with her boyfriend. Or maybe it’s her estranged mom. Among all these people carelessly walking by, she’s alone within the bubble of her own life.
With photos – as with many other things in life – we usually try to plan in advance and prepare for the “right” moment. When that moment arrives, we are there, ready to capture what happens. Then we disengage and wait for the next moment. And then the next.
This selective focus has the obvious advantage of building structure and order into an otherwise chaotic stream of stimuli. But it can also make us overlook the potential of everything that happens in between. The potential of all those moments in between what we prepare for and pay attention to.
The in-between is simply a reflection of life, fluid and continuous. Life happening, irrespective of how we decide to categorize it, fragment it, or distinguish between what we think is relevant and what’s not.
That day in Lisbon, there was no planning or preparation. The photo was a spontaneous reaction to what was happening there and then. There’s nothing wrong with planning, but sometimes the most interesting stuff happens outside our carefully-laid plans.
Capturing a bit more of this fluid continuum of life means training ourselves into staying open. Staying awake. Staying flexible. Not hardening too much into our own expectations, concepts, or plans.
Accepting that the plans we make are merely organized intentions.
Acknowledging that value and beauty often travel incognito and that it takes a trained eye to recognize them.
Relaxing in the knowledge that there’s much we cannot control.
Looking at the world with the eye of the absolute beginner.
Being present and working with the situation as it is, not as you have wanted it to be.
Our obsession with high points robs us of the quiet, continuous flow of interesting stuff happening around us.
Life is mostly made up of in-between moments.