Photography in the Present Tense

Diego Espeleta 

Diego Espeleta 

Photography is a profession commonly associated to memory, and to the past tense. Perhaps, it is true that the pictures we take immediately belong to the past. If understood simply as an object, then photography is only a part of the past; but that is if we understand photography as an object. While here, I would like to understand photography as practice.

In the last few years, I have become more and more interested in the present, and I have begun to wonder whether photography could rather be the profession of the eternal present moment.

Cartier Bresson once wrote that taking photos is to align the mind, the eye and the heart. Agreed. I think this could be easily understood as saying that when we take photographs, our thoughts, our emotions and our senses must all be present and attentive. We might as well call this “zen photography”.

Attention. To be present.

Any photographer, and a documentary photographer in particular, knows that clinging to a past instant is absurd, and that anticipating the future is just a bet. We are left only with the present moment: that instant in which life unfolds in front of our camera.

And this is all okay. Because we also know that each instant is eternal, that each instant has the potential of immortality. Not necessarily because of the resulting picture, but because our eternal attempt to be here and now, will transform that very moment when you are present into an experience, into a new synaptic connection. 

Photography is definitely a practice of the here and now. There is just nothing else. When shooting, everything I think, feel and see happens almost at the same time it changes; and the sun, although it has no rush, doesn’t wait for anyone. Only constant attention allows me to take the decision to press the shutter.

If I don’t know what my body feels, if I’m not capable of realizing the weight of my camera, or my pulse which betrays me; if I’m driven by my brain’s stubborn associations, or instead I don’t reflect on the visual structures in front of me; if I don’t allow myself the empathy towards my subjects, if I can’t follow the story; if I’m not aware of my senses, or if I hold on too much to them. If I don’t recognize my emotions, if I don’t flow with the moment…then I’m not there. If I’m not there, something is not properly aligned, and infinite instants will be lost without being lived, let alone, photographed.

I am not referring to the “decisive moment”. Maybe Bresson did when he wrote that phrase, but not me. I’m talking about this instant.

Now.

This moment, decisive or not, is where I am, and I wouldn’t want to miss it. Not because I won’t obtain “the photo”, maybe I wouldn’t take it anyway. But only if I’m fully present, will I be able to take that decision consciously.

And the truth is, the best photos I’ve seen, seem to be loaded with consciousness.


ALLI is a photographer/videographer from Costa Rica. Vast landscapes, challenging hikes, books, and open roads are among her favorite destinations. She is passionate about documentary, as it offers an opportunity to explore the world and expand the mind through stories and experiences. Follow her here: www.wimblu.com

Alli Baltodano

ALLI is a photographer/videographer from Costa Rica. Vast landscapes, challenging hikes, books, and open roads are among her favorite destinations. She is passionate about documentary, as it offers an opportunity to explore the world and expand the mind through stories and experiences.