It’s Only a Moment, but…

In Images, Thoughts & Theory, Travel by David32 Comments

I think one of the things I love most about photography is that it often elevates the mundane. When you stop a moment, and preserve it forever, and take the care to frame it, light it, and chose one moment over another, you effectively tell the world – or anyone who cares enough to look at your work; Look at this! And if, even in these mundane moments of life, we find something worth looking at, worth showing the world, then we’re effectively saying, Nothing is mundane. When the elements all come together within the simple frame of a photograph to produce something greater than we’d have noticed without that captured moment, it’s magical. And as life is full of these moments, waiting to be seen and captured, they’re magical whether we do or don’t have the camera. The moment is the point, not the photograph. Photographers are learning to see, to stretch life out into a long series of noticed moments, and there’s a gift in this – if Socrates is right and the unexamined life is not worth living, then the unobserved life seems equally tragic. Sometimes a moment is just a moment, but isn’t that what life is all about?

If the poet-philosopher stuff doesn’t appeal to you, here’s the other stuff. We were eating lunch and this man was beside us with his wife. I shot this from the ankle, the camera resting on the floor, with a Zeiss 50mm/1.4 set to f/16 and prefocused. And then I waited. I shot it low because no other angle gave me the lines this one did. Not sure why but I love this photograph and if it’s all I come back from Italy with I’m content to have seen this moment. Makes me smile every time.

I’m still plugging away in Venice. Yesterday it rained cats and dogs (and I got my boots wet – stepped in a poodle) but I came back, soaked, with some images I like. Was one of those evenings you just go and apply yourself to the work, look for the muse and hope she’s not hiding in a cafe somewhere while you’re out getting wet. I fly home on Sunday, so I’ve got 3 more evenings to shoot, including today, so I need to run. Ciao bella.


  1. Too often we think that a photo is only a document or just a memory, but I strongly believe that sometimes it could even be a poem or a comedy.
    Beside all photoshop effects, classic black and white photos are still current, wonderful  and touching, your picture is a great example.
    Thanks for sharing David.

  2. this is a beeeautiful shot. seriously. thank you for brightening my day!

  3. This is what captured my heart in Italy as well. These sorts of wonderful scenes. Thanks for bringing back memories with these great posts, David!

  4. Great post! I LOVE the poet-philosopher stuff, so please don’t stop writing like that. I follow your blog because of it.

  5. agree with Joe…brilliant and defining work here.
    you are writing at peak, David.
    The viewer that pointed out the background shape in the window deserves one of your books for free!
    stop looking for your muse – she is within!

    nuff said

  6. David I am so pleased to have found your work – you are such a great teacher and mentor, hope some day to make a trip with you.

    This image is the style I aspire to acheive. It is us.

    Thanks for the erudite words as well! blessings

  7. David,
    This to me is the essence of photography. Seeing the moment is one thing but capturing it in such an eloquent and stylish way is the cherry on the cake. That is not even mentioning the superb post processing to achieve a fantastic black and white conversion.
    I really want to see more.

    Best regards

  8. You certainly have captured a great facial expression! I agree about the lines of the chairs, too; the reflection in the mirror lends a great quality and leads the eye in toward the gentleman.

    Most of all, I appreciate your words about elevating the mundane- it’s what initially attracted me to photography and continues to inspire my photography every day.

  9. I like the lines of the chairs and in B/W his collar and cup snap your eyes to his face. Second place my eyes went was the lower right that is lighter where I saw the reflection. Nice.

    Wish I had been there, but then I think that of all your trips.

  10. @ #12 who said, “I see the influence of Bresson in this particular shot….” Correction: you see the influence of Birkenstock.

  11. Hows the poodle? Did it survive the experience? 🙂

    Love this image. Love the expression on the gents face.

  12. like everyone else i love this image as well – love the way the backs of the chairs frame and surround him enjoying his no-doubt-excellent espresso – to me he looks like someone who appreciate and enjoys the good things in life (notice his stylish blazer and tie) and reflects on it and i identify with that. from a technical perspective i really love the b&w treatment – so many lovely different grays and whites and blacks and the really sharp tablecloth – a very beautiful and inspiring image in all apects – thank you for sharing it with us. keep enjoying (and sharing when you have the energy and time) venice david.

  13. Anyone notice the man’s silhouette while holding the cup in the reflection on the window behind him?

    that’s the proverbial cherry if you ask me. I’ve tried shots like this but haven’t nailed one yet.


  14. Just magical! You owe it to your muse :).
    Beautiful shot, which resonates with Bresson’s decisive moment. By turning it to b&w you add simplicity and power to the mundane. Watching the photo for 5 minutes… and you become (you jump into) part of the scene… what is he thinking about? That’s the point.
    It’s the power of the gaze.
    Congrats! You did it again.

  15. What? What? You didn’t first get his permission? And a release? Wherefore art thou ethics, David?

    Was he deaf to the clicking sound of the camera or is that look on his face, “What is that sound?”

  16. A classic
    definitely the best picture I have seen since a long time!
    Was it a “stolen” moment or do you think the man was aware of you?

  17. I see the influence of Bresson in this particular shot….the decisive moment for sure! what adds to the value of the image outside the composition is the expression that lures the imagination to wonder what’s on the mind of the person.

  18. I was totally tracking with the philosopher-poet. The image moved me as soon as my eyes caught it.

    Preach it! Socrates would be proud…
    “to stretch life out into a long series of noticed moments”

    I must admit it’s easier for me to live this way now that I live in Turkey (not my orig homeland.)

  19. When David “have you tried his in black and white” Duchemin was taking this I was sitting at the same table as others who have already commented.

    I was mesmerised as David went about his craft. He makes light of the balancing on his ankle bit, but he managed to shoot about 20images, without the man who was only 6 feet away noticing or being disturbed, whilst eating his pasta and talking nonchalantly to us.

    If ever there was an example of craft and vision combining then his was it for me. The framing, the preemptive focal length, the moment. One of the most instructful moments of the week

    thanks for sharing David

  20. Aside from being a wonderful photographer, you are so eloquent. I have enjoyed your blog, website, photos, and podcasts tremendously. This image is no exception.

  21. Great shot, appreciate the moment, the angle, the expression, and the Zeiss! What did you say, “Look up” or “Don’t mind me, I’m just going to lay on the ground for a bit”?

  22. Love it David and this shot means that little extra to me since we were there watching you in action.

  23. Ha – I totally skipped over the photo-philosophy stuff when I saw you mentioned the 50mm zeiss.

    Capturing moments are important, and I feel it most when I’m at home, looking at my kids, knowing they’re getting older by the SECOND. That they’ll never be this way again and I’m missing that as a photograph because I’m carrying a baby while watching a toddler. It can be frustrating really.

  24. You stepped in a poodle? That really, really must have been messy =)

    This photo makes me so ‘homesick’ for Italy and our group.

  25. I love the thought of you stepping in a poodle! Great shot – we can only imagine what he was thinking

  26. Love it, David! I used to have a point and shoot with a rotating screen that would allow me to easily frame shots like this. Miss that on my DSLR, but shots like this inspire me to get crazy.

    BTW, bought your book “Visionmongers” and am reading it on my iPhone. I like it. I like it a lot.

  27. Nice post, David. I like this photo a lot as well. It is inspiring also that we can find beauty in the mundane. Good luck with the rest of your trip & upcoming shoots.

  28. Great shot, love the idea of shooting from the ankle not the hip. The gesture is wonderful with the cup mid air , and the expression on his face is priceless.

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