Capturing in-between moments: Lisbon photo story

I started taking photos in nature and for a long time photography was associated, for me, with natural habitats. Then I started exploring urban environments and the way they interact with nature. Much later, I moved on to portraits. Then I started working on photo projects focused on issues that were important to me.

These are all different environments – for living, for photography, for storytelling. We’re moving through different environments, each of them with its own rules, limitations, and openings. We prefer some environments to others, we may even think that we can neatly choose the environments we live in. But the truth is that we need to get used to living in multiple environments, crossing boundaries, putting together seemingly disjointed elements, and trying to complete a puzzle that has no predefined solution. In this sense, we’re all immigrants. Trying to find a home away from home. Trying to feel at home in different environments.

Posted for Tina’s Lens-Artists Challenge

If you want more information on the Lens-Artists Challenge, please click here.

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 providing structure and order to 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 occurring outside 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.

The featured photo illustrates such a moment. 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 on 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.

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.

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 do not control.

Looking at the world with the eye of the absolute beginner. Free from the heaviness of all the things we think we know.

Being present and working with the situation as it is, not as we have wanted it to be.

Being too focused on high points can rob us of the quiet, continuous flow of interesting stuff happening around us.

Life is mostly made up of in-between moments.

12 thoughts on “Capturing in-between moments: Lisbon photo story

  1. You captured my city so well. This is Lisbon. That first photo is simply wonderful. Now I’m missing it even more but thank you for the memories.

  2. A wonderful post Florin, loved that opening image as well as your narrative this week. You are so right, it is often the unplanned moments that are the best if we are open to them. Loved the other images as well, especially the blue tiles and the bird over the cobblestones.

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