Waiting for an afternoon cloud to clear on a recent project in Shenzhen. Photo: Wen Dong

I am always amazed at the contradictions in photography.  How is it that sometimes you wait for hours and hours even days or weeks for the right moment to take a photograph which requires only a tiny fraction of a second to capture. Yet at other times, you are in the center of the moment – you see it, raise the camera to your eye, and click – you’re done!

Finding the perfect moment requires patience.  A photograph has to stop time perfectly.  As a young photographer starting out, I spent some time shooting the live performances of rock bands in Atlanta – Patti Smith, Dire Straits, The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers Band.  I learned how hard it is to capture a moment perfectly.  Thousands of exposures and only 2-3 might be great (if you are lucky).

Like nothing else, art creates its own experience – it stops time.

Bob Dylan folk singer, noble prize winner, and oracle of culture, summed it up in a forgotten interview with Allen Ginsberg in 1977.

“You want to live forever, right Allen? Huh? In order to live forever you have to stop time. In order to stop time you have to exist in the moment, so strong as to stop time and prove your point. So that you have stopped time. And if you succeed in doing that, everyone who comes into contact with what you’ve done—whatever it might be, whether you’ve carved a statue or painted a painting—will catch some of that; they’ll recognize that you have stopped time—they won’t realize it, but that’s what they’ll recognize, that you have stopped time. That’s a heroic feat!”

Now I am not trying to be anyone’s hero, but I have learned to see and experience the world around me on a moment by moment basis.  Some moments are better than others.  A few moments are very special, and occasionally a moment is completely awesome!  It represents a point in time that can never be exactly repeated or replicated – these are the moments I strive to capture in my photography.

Paul Dingman is an architectural photographer living in China and working throughout Asia.  He designs photographs for architects.