Remembered Moments

Well, here we are, September 21, I’ve been on the road–mostly Highway 2–the Hi-Line, in northern Montana for nine days and it’s been pretty much nine days of grayness. The vastness of this country seems emphasized by the somber light. But when the sky does break, as it did for a short while late yesterday afternoon, it can be magical. I was walking in downtown Havre and wasn’t really able to put the fine light to use but I knew how good it would be if I were in the right place, and that could have been anywhere but, perhaps, downtown Havre.

On the road the other day, with Ani at the wheel, I was reading Mary Clearman Blew’s beautifully written memoir, “Bone Deep in Landscape.” A native of northern Montana, novelist Blew talks about having seen something for just a fleeting few seconds while driving along the Clearwater River heading to her home in Idaho and seeing a small herd of elk drinking from the river. “I was able to glance back just once as the highway curved. The sun had broken through the rain clouds, and one shaft illuminated the elk in the dark green water, and then I was another mile down the road.”

Then she says, “I had been graced with the beauty of the remembered moment.” I find that phrase beautiful in its simplicity and so much a part of what we photographers experience and for which we should be grateful. We can’t get all the pictures we see. Sometimes we don’t take them because we simply weren’t ready or perhaps we couldn’t because we would flush the image away with the raising of the camera. But we saw them. How fortunate we are to be fine tuned in our vision so that we sometimes see pictures others do not even though they are there, also. Damn, I didn’t get the picture, but did you see that? And we can remember them, sometimes for seemingly ever, because we had been “graced with the beauty of the remembered moment.”

In my chapter about France and Paris in my new book, WILLIAM ALBERT ALLARD: Five Decades, to be published next month, I write about a remembered moment in a Paris wine bar. And I end the book with an Epilogue entitled: Pictures We Don’t Take and it goes back to the very beginning years of my work; I was only about two years into my career, but the picture I describe is still vivid in my mind. Of course, it’s just one of countless pictures I’ve seen but wasn’t able for one reason or another to put onto film or a digital file. But it was great to have seen them. It always is. Aren’t we lucky?

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8 Responses to Remembered Moments

  1. I am no longer in the photojournalism profession but your book The Photographic Essay made a huge impression on me. I am looking forward to reading and seeing your next book. Cheers from Chicago.

  2. Diana says:

    Bill, this is so wonderful and so true. I have some beautiful moments locked away that I treasure as if I had the prints in front of me.

  3. D.A. Davenport says:

    Ahh, this is going to be a fabulous blog to track. Your words almost as evocative as tour photographs. Thanks for the images.

  4. D.A. Davenport says:

    Ahh, this is going to be a fabulous blog to track. Your words almost as evocative as your photographs. Thanks for the images.

  5. Bob Travis says:

    What a wonderful thought, and quote! I hope the weather does better for you, soon… :-)

  6. Marie Richman says:

    I am just starting to follow your blog. It’s wonderful to imagine your voice as I’m reading your words . . . Thanks in part to prodding from Diana and Nik, I’ll be joining all of you in Jackson Hole!

  7. I am so excited to have found your blog, and the most recent post was brilliant and heartfelt. Here’s to better light in mt and vt!

  8. Bill, your words bring to mind one of my favorite Minor White quotes: “Often while traveling with a camera we arrive just as the sun slips over the horizon of a moment, too late to expose film, only time enough to expose our hearts.”

    I often find that my “heart pictures” are more vivid than any caught with my camera. Thank you for reminding me of that. And thank you for this blog. I am a new visitor but will return…

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