As time continually marches onward, burning up moments without respite, it gives greater weight to some than to others. It could be said that some moments are of more moment than others and it is those moments, heavy with history, that we all want to see. Undoubtedly the myriad of meaningless, ordinary moments that whizz past unnoticed can go unrecorded without much remorse, but those important moments are to a great degree measured by the images that we make of them.
Great artists purposely chose particular moments in great sagas and stories from history in order to communicate what the events that they had portrayed actually meant to their intended viewers. Photographs have maintained this tradition and enhanced it with the authenticity of the subject. No longer do we view the images that capture the great moments of humanity through the eyes of an artist, now we see an image of the moment as it is happening. The taking of the photograph has become a part of the moment forever, and the fact that there is a photographic record of the moment is one of the qualities that define that particular moment.
I think that this holds true on even a great scale. It can hardly be denied that the famous photograph of the mushroom cloud ascending over Hiroshima captures a moment in history and communicates the importance of the moment of 8:16 am on August 6 1945 when it was taken. Can a photograph tell the story of the moment better than the shot of Neil Armstrong standing on the moon, reflecting an image of his co-pilot Buzz Aldrin and their craft in the visor of his space suit helmet with the lunar plain behind him? The entire story of how we had realized our oldest dream was legible enough for Life to use for their Special Edition cover.
Photographs actually capture the quality of those decisive moments better than any written description ever can. The eyes ability to discern so much from the look on someone’s face, their posture makes a picture so much more legible than a second hand account, it makes the viewer an eyewitness and to a certain extent he has entered into the moment himself.