Friday, July 21, 2017

The Decisive Moment - a brief discussion

Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, 1932
“Making a photograph means recognising, all at once and in a fraction of a second, an event and the exact organisation of the visually perceived forms that express and signify that event. It means aligning the head, the eye and the heart along the same line of sight. It’s a way of living.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) is credited for the expression, the decisive moment. The image at right, Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, has become one of the most iconic of his images to represent that expression because it succinctly captures, in a single frame, the whole of his teachings. While there have been many discussions both casual and scholarly, like the image at right, his teachings has been oversimplified and distilled down to a short definition that, to me, has lost a lot of its original meaning or, as in some cases, completely missing the mark.

Rather than getting into a lengthy dissertation on what Bresson considered the decisive moment is I thought I would just share some of my ideas about how I interpret it to be. My take is based on my own interpretation of how Henri Cartier-Bresson explains it, which in the context of his book is very little, and in how he used certain techniques to visually represent the decisive moment visually.

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