You Never Realize the Power of a Moment Until It Becomes a Memory

Don Giannatti
5 min readJun 12, 2024

One of the most powerful things we can do is to capture that moment in a photograph.

We all have special moments.

Those little things that fleetingly blow by like leaves in the wind.

They occasionally come to mind, and frequently a photograph can bring them flooding back as a memory.

And I love images.

For me, it’s like holding a piece of time.

A very small sliver of time.

But a sliver that can recall entire days, weeks, and months.

My camera’s capture of that fleeting moment is a representation of a larger moment, and that memory brings to mind a more extensive experience.

This is the stealth power of the still image.

A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.” –Edward de Bono.

The Retirement of the Shoes. (photo by the author)

When my wife finally had to give up ballet, we retired her last pair of ballet shoes.

I made the photograph in the living room with window light, and we packed the shoes up for later. After about a thousand pairs of shoes, these were the last to be laced for a dancer of 40 years.

It was a moment made even more poignant when looking at the photograph.

You never think there will be a last pair of ballet shoes, but there they were.

The last pair.

A moment becomes a memory. A memory becomes a transitional time of life, captured in a photograph.

“We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.” — Ralph Hattersley

Bob and his car for the last time. (photo by the author)

Bob bought this car when he was a much younger man. It was his friend, companion, hobby, and occasional partner in winning car show ribbons.

Bob has a challenge. His memories are fading, and the ability to do things he has done for his entire life is gone.

One warm summer day in Hemet, we made this photo of him with his car, still proud, still standing.

It would be the last time they would see each other.

A moment becomes a memory. A memory becomes a treasured artifact, an avatar for what once was.

His family has this image to remember what he cannot, and that makes it special to them, and me.

“Photography is the art of making memories tangible.” — Destin Sparks

Bri in Zion. (photo by the author)

Once a year, I would put together a trip for all of the Project 52 Members who wanted to come out and hang out for a week.

I didn’t charge for the trip, we all pooled money for a 15-passenger van, a huge stow of lunch ingredients, and gas.

We would head up to Utah along Highway 89, and visit Zion, Bryce, Escalante, Marble Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, the Grand Canyon, and home.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime road trip for some of them and a blast for all of us who would spend 8 days in a van going from hotel to hotel making photographs at midnight in the snow, and in places that were inspiring and beautiful.

I loved doing them, and the students looked forward to them every year.

And then there were none.

The COVID crap that ensued in 2020 killed that riding around in a van stuff off.

But I have the images, and the memories associated with those moments.

The photo of Bri was taken on one of the trips. We all pitched in and paid for her to come along and be the “person in the frame” for the photographers who wanted to get a person in the image. The amount of wardrobe we packed nearly took up half the truck… heh.

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” — Aaron Siskind

From the top of the Moki Dugway. (photo by the author)

The Moki Dugway is a steep, curvy, dirt road up the side of a mountain in southern Utah.

It is a bucket list for motorcyclists, and I was bound and determined to ride this bad boy, even though riding on gravel scares the heck out of me.

Add to that gravel are the paved, steep hairpin curves. Pavement covered with gravel on a hairpin curve at a 10% incline is memorable, to say the least.

I got to the top and made this photograph.

And it may be the last time I ride the Moki Dugway. Who knows what tomorrow brings?

This photograph of a moment, a memory, becomes so much more than a simple image taken from a roadside overlook. It reminds me of every bit of deep gravel, and how cool it was that I didn’t drop that 900-pound cruiser on the hairpins.

(It was so scary, I rode down and back up again… heh.)

A Facebook meme recently reminded me of this.

It told the story of an older gentleman who served in Vietnam and took a photo of Ann Margaret while she and Bob Hope were entertaining the troops.

Not my photo: From the Facebook Post

He brought it along to a book signing, and although the rules were no autographs, when Ms Margeret saw the image, she exclaimed that of course she would sign it, and then stopped the proceeding to spend a few moments with the man and his wife.

Never forget the innate attachment we humans have to the still photograph. It is not the same as a painting, drawing, or even a movie.

It is that sliver of time — 1/125 for instance — that translates into memories flooding from every direction.

Do you have any photographs that bring those special moments to life for you?

Looking for a Summer Workshop?

Making stories with photographs can transcend simple photography. From individual images to a series, the ability to tell a story — long or short — is one of the great abilities of the photographic arts.

This class is one of my favorites, and it will not be taught as a LIVE course again.

If you want to see more about this class, go here.

All enrollees get a $100 discount on Project 52 Pro if they decide they want to join the most unique and powerful class in commercial photography in the known universe.*




Don Giannatti

Designer. Photographer. Author. Entrepreneur: Loving life at 100MPH. I love designing, making photographs and writing.