Jacob Chan

on understanding the fragile moment

14 Mar 2018


There was once this post on reddit a long time ago, I wish I could pull it up. OP’s mom was looking through old photos, and there were no photos of people. Just the sights of the various trips that were taken, or resorts visited, etc. As she was trying to recall the setting of each photo, he mom was sad because these photos meant nothing to her. The people you were with and the memories that came with it, OP realized, is what made photos more impactful and memorable. This introduced me to the notion of pictures as memories.

From then on, I was more mindful of the various memories being made at given times. It is akin to the common idea of meditation - erasing the boundary between self and surroundings, in order to live in the moment.

The moment. This is what intrigued me. How can I better understand the moment? What makes the moment so important? How can I better capture the moment? (An overused term, but fitting nonetheless.)


There is an urgency. The moment is passing. Every moment is unique. Therefore, no moment in the future will ever replicate this one as it is right now. It is irreplacable. Emotions change, thoughts change, mindsets change, circumstances change. Let’s capture it - through a camera, or anything - to make the most of what the moment has now.

Look out for stories, people, memories that you want to hold on to. That you don’t want to forget, because you were focused on something else.


This understanding of the fragility of the moment is what motivated me to pick up the camera again. The ability to eternalize memories and moments into hard copy film is what drew me to film photography.

Film taught me many things.


With film, you have to be patient. You can’t be trigger happy, like with a digital camera. It must be deliberate, and with intentional composition. By definition, once debeloped, the imprinted patterns onto this material is permanent.

learning from mistakes

For every roll, there must be at least one-third that are garbage. The frame wasn’t straight on, aperture too small, etc. It is especially disappointing when you don’t realize that photos will turn out poorly until 2 weeks later. This feeds back into the first point now that you have mistakes to learn from.


This is probably the most important for me. For photographers, it’s easy to forget the subject. It’s easy to think that the subject and setting exist solely in the photo (on the screen), but that’s hardly the case. In fact, the photo is a snapshot of a real subject, in a real setting. Living a life as complicated as you. In front of you, not down at your camera screen.

So what? Film photography taught me to not get caught up in how the photo turned out. It’s nice to be immersed in the setting, be tied to the subject. There’s nothing to take you away from that moment. You remain present. The photo, as you’ll find, will seem much deeper and more impactful because of this feeling of presence. It will take you to a moment, rather than just a certain place at a certain time.

With digital cameras, the flaws are immediately pointed out. The screen shows a different setting than what you see through your eyes.


I think it’s important to understand the concept of the fragile moment. It’s irreplacable nature should leave you unsettled. It should bother you. Don’t stress out about it though, it just wants to be appreciated and acknowledged. Do just that. I did this through film, but you can do it however. Make it yours. I just thought this was a big part of my life, and has changed me for the better.

Thanks for allowing me to share.