Photographing unique moments in time

Capturing a moment in time, photography can often show things in a brand new light or even reveal things that could not have otherwise been considered.

Now more than ever before we communicate using images. We are reliant on images to tell a story, to relay a message.

In fact, photographs have become so ubiquitous in our culture that they are treated as a means of validating what we say and what we experience. ‘Pics or it didn’t happen’ as the Instagram mantra teaches us.

Caught on camera

But it is often the more candid photographs – capturing things that are not planned and happen purely by coincidence – which prove to be the most exceptional.

Social media platforms are overflowing with images of the same things: famous landmarks, famous people, selfies and animals. But there are never any two photographs that are the same.

However, in an improbable coincidence, two photographers somehow managed to capture an image at the same time, at the same location, bizarrely without any knowledge of each other. Both Ron Risman and Eric Gendron, professional photographers in New England, captured sizeable waves crashing into Whaleback Lighthouse, New Castle.


The two photographs were so alike that Risman was initially concerned that his photo, which he uploaded to his Instagram account, had been stolen and shared elsewhere on the Internet. Some further investigation, however, revealed Gendron had captured the very same moment in time but from a slightly different position.

Risman was amazed at this uncanny event, having not encountered anything like this in his many years experience as a time-lapse expert: “Until now I have never seen two images that were so close as to be virtual clones of each other.”

The two photographers have apparently been in contact regarding this coincidence.

Perhaps in an even more bizarre case of photographic serendipity, a man appeared in the background of his wife’s holiday photo – 11 years before they met each other.

When browsing through his wife’s photos for evidence of who their children better resemble, Ye noticed himself in Ms Xue’s photo. Posing in front of Qingdao’s May Fourth Square at the same time as one another while on holiday as teenagers, the two would later meet through mutual friends as young adults, and later still would become man and wife.

Xue and Ye have both taken this to mean that their relationship was always “destined” to be. Indeed, it is a perfect example of how coincidental photography may inspire us to think more deeply about that which cannot be so easily explained.

As both of these stories illustrate, photography is an ideal medium for capturing those ‘spur of the moment’ happenings in life that could easily pass by without our noticing them if it were not for a camera.

Freezing frames, freezing time

In this way a photograph can give us knowledge about the world that we would not have otherwise been privy to. The camera is able to freeze certain moments in time – preserve them in this visual form – so that they can also never be forgotten.

The preservation of time and place is something that is important in a variety of sectors, however photography may be applied.

As we have written about elsewhere, for example, a positive aspect of time-lapse photography is that it can preserve a view of a city as it will never be seen again. As one building is demolished and before another is being built, there is a particular perspective that will not be the same once construction begins. Photographer Andy Spain often captures the building sector at work but with a particular focus on those ‘in-between’ shots.

London cityscape
Above: a London cityscape captured for a time-lapse construction project.

Time-lapse records change as it happens, rendering any activity, large or small, in a way that can be visualised as part of a moving sequence. Not only applied to reveal a simple transition from start to finish, however, time-lapse is also ideal for capturing those moments that may be particularly transient.

Iconic events and the construction (or demolition) of notable landmarks – in sectors like the arts, sports, and leisure – can be preserved via a unique and visually engaging perspective.

So for those ‘spur of the moments’ in time, whether we are aware of them at the time or not, photography is instrumental in revealing a new level of meaning beneath the surface.

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