In photography, we have a term known as the “golden hour” or “magic hour”. This precise moment occurs only after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is softer and redder compared to when the sun is higher in the sky. It’s at that moment that I, as a photographer, treasure because of the beautiful skyline that springs forth from these conditions. With good timing and a mastery of the camera, you immortalize the perfect moment into a photograph.
I find that that should be the only perfect moment we ought to wait for.
Earlier today I read about a teenage boy that had committed suicide recently. He was still in secondary school, and judging by his Instagram pictures, he was about fifteen or sixteen. I didn’t know him at all, but I did get to dig deep into his Twitter account and Instagram even though I had no business being there. I don’t think anyone has any business being waist deep in the thoughts of a dead person, but there I was, morbidly curious or something else. I looked through his tweets in the past days, past weeks and months even and found a boy struggling to love himself, grasping at affection as one would with straws.
His Instagram feed was just as depressing, with unsmiling selfies and a lot of black and white in his aesthetic. It seemed to describe his outlook on life, as well – black and white. You either love me or you don’t. And if you don’t, I am worthless. Nobody can love me because that’s just how it is – black and white.
I found myself piecing him together, tweet by tweet, picture by picture. One of his tweets was particularly haunting. It went something along the lines of, “People only care when you’re gone.” His Instagram feed is filled with hundreds upon hundreds of comments from friends and bystanders alike – “Rest in peace.” “I wish you talked to me.” “Come back.” “How could you leave like this?”
“I wish you talked to me.”
His feed was washed with the regret of his friends, and bitter confusion and rage at his sudden absence. I am familiar with this myself. I’ve lost a friend to suicide, and another to an unfortunate accident. I remember thinking, “I should have done something. Said something. Made it count while it lasted.” The black and white aesthetic of this boy’s Instagram feed was bleeding into everything else I saw. Black and white. You’re either alive or you’re not. You either do it now, or risk losing the chance of doing it at all.
We often fall into the trap of believing that we still have time to do what’s important. We still have tomorrow to speak of, to live through, to make use of. The hard truth is that we don’t. We don’t actually know if tomorrow will come – for us or for others. We watch the sun rise through squinted, narrowed eyes, resenting the glare of its light. When the roads are buzzing and growling with angry traffic and the veins of this city are thrumming with life and a pulse that never seems to falter, who would ever think of it? Who would ever stop to think – is this the last time? We are absorbed in the life of this world that we forget that we are what gives the world its soul. Who would ever think that today’s sunset would be someone’s last light?
Take a look at somebody you care about. Imagine them gone tomorrow.
In photography, we have something we call the golden hour. We wait for hours for the perfect moment to arrive before taking the shot. Outside that bubble, we don’t have that luxury. We don’t have the “perfect moment.” The only moment that matters is now, and what you do with it. Spend your whole life postponing it – whatever “it” may be for you – and deceive yourself: tell yourself that there’s always another time for it.
There will never be “another” time for it. The hour is here. What do you want to do with it?