Capture the moment, not the smile. | Celebrate What's Right With the World
Capture the moment, not the smile.
by Tania Carriere
March 18, 2017 - 4:40pm

I've just been to Australia, the last long weekend of summer. Families were everywhere, walking the Great Ocean Road.

You know how families walk. Each one has its own rhythm, a kind of family fingerprint. Someone rushes ahead, someone drags behind, two might be chatting or two others might be bickering, someone knows the directions, someone else is mesmerized by the view. Or perhaps they walk in silence, each caught up in their own world.

I love watching these pods move in their constellations. I smile with remembrance of my own family adventures and the higgledy-piggledy way that we walked along, each caught up in our experience.

I notice something funny happens to these free flowing units. Every so often, usually at a time or place that has been predetermined to be significant, (in front of THIS monument or at THAT moment) everyone stops, gathers in a formation and grimaces at whomever is holding the camera. A picture is taken (in response to the cajoling of the photographer "smile!"), and in my experience, the magic that was just a few minutes before is lost.

When did we start to value the carefully calibrated pretend moments instead of the spontaneous real moments?

We all do it.

Just recently I was in San Francisco and capped off a great conference weekend at dinner with two friends whom I have know since highschool. We haven't lived in the same cities since our 20's but as Tricia so wisely pointed out, one of the best things about getting older is having friends who have known you for decades. Delicious.

We dropped into easy conversation. Updates, political views, aspirations, sorrows and dreams. We laughed at each other's antics, bemoaned our collective weight gain, cheered our individual successes and tiered up at the heath challenges that some of our parents are facing.

And suddenly we had a desire to capture this moment of friendship and ease (which last happened at least 20 years ago) in a photo. The first few were terribly staged. We fell into formation. we posed and “smiled”. How fake, how forced, how suddenly the magic left the moment. The woman taking our photo actually said "try and look like you like each other!" Which was enough to set us off, squeaking and squawking and she captured this photo.

Which I love.

Which should NOT be on a photography site...

...everything about the photo is wrong. Lighting is poor, I look like I have a double chin and no eyes, Tricia’s face is distorted as she is about to say something, Ann is falling over, you can't tell who has two arms... No one is in the right "smile" position. There is food on the table.

And yet it is real. I am being squished in a hug between two girlfriends who form a cornerstone of my life. It is the squishy feeling of having “my people” at my side that is making me smile.  I think you can read it on my face. In that moment I knew my fortune, I felt loved and a little silly. It makes me smile, even now, weeks later, as I recall the warmth and tenderness.

So, here's my challenge to you. Capture the moments. Who cares if anyone is smiling, looking at the camera, in formation? See is you can capture someone's heart as it is suddenly displayed on their face.


Come and explore who you are “behind the smile”. Join me, Dewitt Jones and Lynette Shepard for a week of celebration, discovery and transformation in Hawaii, October 28-Nov 4, 2017 for The Re-Imagined Self.  Only 3 Early Bird spaces left!  Check the workshop tab above!

Barb Bozzoon March 19, 2017 - 12:06pm

LOVE your image and story behind it, Tania. Not only did it capture the moment, but the incredible joyous mood of the celebration you were having with your friends. In a sense, I see your inner children coming out to play and this spontaneous play is what we unfortunately somehow lose over the years as we "mature" and take on responsibilities. Coupled with the fact of our horrendous vanity of wanting to "look our best" at all times, we begin to lose sight of the importance of truly celebrating each moment we have on earth. The photographer in me wants so much to document special moment in my life to look back on, as I look so fondly back on my family history. The question is - do I want to capture the moment or the mood; the forced smiles or the heartfelt connections? Thanks for giving me a whole new perspective! Thanks for the awesome line "try to look like you like each other"! I will have to try that!

JBon March 21, 2017 - 7:12am

Great read! Thank you!

Sara Johnon March 22, 2017 - 4:23am

How true!!Nowadays everything is done for 'likes' on fb. Nothing is genuine. But the pics that 'capture the moment' are the ones that we cherish more.

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