When one second is all you get. Polek Rybczynski meditates on his best photograph yet

Some backstory, from Lisa:

Earlier in the month, I emailed Polek: “got a pic for Sunday?” And he shared this one: “my best and favourite photo taken to date. For me this photograph culminates years of learning. And relearning. I’m proud of how far I have come. But tomorrow, the learning continues.”

I was curious. I mean, it’s a lovely photo. But Polek has taken hundreds and thousands of photos, many of which are arguably better than this. And it’s rare for him to share a photo of his wee man.

“This is a place where people are welcome to share their struggles and tribulations and learning and healing journeys,” I replied. “Would you care to elaborate?”

I am grateful that he did. Over to Polek:

Photography is a portal. Through the ability of framing a frame of time, we can study it, feel it, re-live it, re-work it, heal it. And sometimes, neither. By the act of just watching it, it, just is.

Like great art pieces that stood me still in my wandering boots, and classic photographs that kept me sitting for longer than I thought possible, to frame a frame of time has been an inner desire I have longed to perfect.

In photography (and general life I guess) I had battled for a long time between the technical and the intuitive thoughts; which one should take precedence? I would hear of photographers being very technically gifted, or intuitive. What I found though was that when I ceased the battle in my mind between both, a co-creation manifested between them that was greater than the sum of the two.

Sure, this looks a simple frame and not far from a photograph that someone could take casually on a smart phone, but this is my best frame taken to date.

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But that is the thing: simple is most often the most elusive.

I heard a saying that is worth every millisecond of its time in this context:

Perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away.

Every aspect of this frame was thought through – what Tae was wearing, time of day for right light, right lens, and the most productive mood for Tae (and getting him out of the house in time to catch the light). Positioning, and composition- thought through.

But when it came to push the shutter button, silence. A few small movements of the camera that I did not think about, just felt. Tae was moving around every which way, not that great for the necessary slow shutter speed. He was restless, wanting to kick, push, peel and cover the tree with dirt. Then I asked Tae to be still for a moment and think of how beautiful the tree is. Tae kept moving around. But then, a split moment happened. Tae stood next to the tree, looked at it, closed his eyes for a moment, then looked at me. Click. One second later, Tae was trying to climb the tree.

That was it, one second. It’s all that I got. And photography is like that, when you are attempting to frame a moment in time, you only get a moment in time.

The technical gets you ready, the intuitive gets you there.

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