Empty-handed Ownership

A handsome man in a suit crosses the street at night, caught by the flash of a camera as he looks away.  City lights glow in the background, transformed by the lens into nocturnal candies.  A striking portrait of youth and sophistication blends fashion photography with a journalistic look and suggests that the man is a person of importance perhaps intercepted by paparazzi on his way to an evening gala.  The night is young.

Express Ad: Handsome man in a suit crosses a city street at night.

Matching the crispness of his white shirt, the word Express appears in bold like a title for the image itself.  Express—as in the brand name of a trendy clothier, as in the act of expressing oneself, as in quickly (buy now).  Thus the company slogan Own the Moment.  Note that in the instant of holding down his suit lapel, the man reveals a fine wristwatch that symbolically reinforces the slogan.

So again, Own the Moment.  Objectify time in order that it may be possessed and therefore controlled.  Operate in the vein of time is money, but with more daring.  Take responsibility, come what may.  One should not forget, however, that ownership in terms of holding oneself accountable usually does not coincide with the coolly triumphant moment pictured, and that equating time with money is hardly a reliable roadmap for personal fulfillment (see Buying Time: The Lessons of a Cheap Watch).

“The moment” as a concept seems more popular today than ever before.  Emphasized in the media by a pleasure-seeking culture in pursuit of glorious feelings, it also circulates as a psychotherapeutic method borrowed from the Buddhist tradition whereby the goal is to be truly present and treat all moments equally.  One version aims to reward stress, another to relieve it.

Five years have passed since Express declared Own the Moment.  All that remains of the campaign are a few YouTube videos and print ads buried in time.  They served their purpose but now send a message to the contrary: The moment cannot be owned because it continually slips away.  The best we can do is record it and later marvel at the passage of time, still empty-handed when we try to comprehend the forces that in fact own us.


Express Ad: Handsome man in a suit crosses a city street at night.
Holding Down the Moment

Author: Todd Garlington

Urban spectator, Inner space cadet

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