The other day I set up a new online account that required a profile picture. This is a significant problem for me, because I don’t always photograph well. I don’t know that I have a “good angle.” As I labored over which photo to choose, I began to think about how funny it would be for me to select the absolute worst photo of myself and upload it. Nobody does that. Can you imagine how different people’s reactions to an online profile would be if the person’s profile picture was an image of them at their absolute worst? It made me chuckle because I bet most people have more bad photos of themselves than they do flattering ones.
In the 1970s, the Kodak Film Company developed an advertising campaign to distinguish them from their competition who began seriously threatening Kodak’s market share. The campaign urged consumers to capture priceless fragments of their lives, designated as Kodak Moments. The slogan remains today, and has become a synecdoche for good times.
Photography has changed a great deal in recent history. It used to be that you took photos and had to wait until they were developed to know if they were in fact “Kodak Moments,” or if a blink or in-the-way-finger had ruined the shot. Even if you posed a shot, such as a family picture, you never really knew if you captured the moment until the roll of film was developed. These days, we can take, review, and re-take until we get it “perfect.”
When I began youth ministry, I developed something called The Road Rally. It was a photo scavenger hunt all over Tampa, that became incredibly popular. I always distributed disposable cameras so I had a greater chance of getting a collection of Kodak Moments, as opposed to a bunch of over-rehearsed staged shots. I wanted truly candid shots of the kid’s experiences, not “glamor shots” where everyone looked perfect.
The thing about Kodak Moments is that they’re fleeting and rare, which is part of the appeal. Capturing a great photo with a single click means you captured something uniquely beautiful, pure, and ephemeral. Even if what develops is less than perfect, it is still an honest representation of the moment.
Ever since the birth of my son, I have done my very best to capture Kodak Moments. Well timed and priceless images that represent the innate beauty of my firstborn. The problem with this is that I might as well have set out to capture Sasquatch. Babies are notoriously poor subjects when it comes to photography. They are quick and the joy that inspires you to grab the camera is gone by the time you turn it on and point it at the child. Consequently, I take hundreds of thousands of shots, and while a majority of them are taken seconds too late, I know that in the future I will appreciate having documented our real lives, even if I missed what prompted me to remove the lens cap in the first place.
The point is that pure moments, the kind that Kodak lobbied for America to capture, are rare by definition. Most of life is squished faces and wonky eyes. Life is messy and abrupt, and never quite as poised as we’d care for it to be. A lot of people put a lot of effort into staging their lives so that they appear to have it all together. They do their best to look like they have the perfect life, or if not the perfect life, a better life. Don’t be fooled. Life is never as perfect as it may appear. We reap the harvest indigenous to the environment. And Life is a chaotic ecosystem.
I think we ought to aspire to living a candid life, appreciating the moments of laughter, sorrow, joy, and grief as they appear. We should embrace the uncertainty of this fleeting and long-suffering life, because true life, life representative of our actual experience, only really occurs in-between the Kodak Moments. And therein lies the beauty. God’s gift to the world was his son, that we might embrace all of life without fear. Jesus is our gateway to an extravagant narrative, full of a few Kodak Moments and an abundance of moments that are not perfect, but still just as important.