Before you go any further, give some careful thought to the ‘decisive moment’ debate and note down where you stand (at the moment, anyway) in your learning log. You’ll come back to this in Assignment Three.
I admit that I admire the art of Cartier-Bresson. There: I’ve said it. His best photos contain elements of composition and humour which make them attractive and easy to understand. There isn’t the harsh banality of (for example), Paul Graham’s work The Present, which risks the viewer thinking “I could do that”. The problem with being “decisively indecisive” as Pentall (2012) points out is that “we don’t really know what we are looking at or looking for”. If this is the case, then boredom and confusion are the most likely result rather than interest.
Ghazzal (2004) argues that ” … there are less and less decisive moments, and more repetitive urban landscape[s] …”, but I simply don’t agree. Have human interactions stopped? Have people stopped making the bodily gestures that Ghazzal talks so much about? Of course not. Carter-Bresson said that what matters is to look. He didn’t say it was easy.
Wells (2015) paints a picture of the master’s method:
Henri Cartier-Bresson lay in wait for all the messy contingency of the world to compose itself into an image that he judged to be both productive of visual information and aesthetically pleasing. This he called ‘the decisive moment’, a formal flash of time when all the right elements were in place before the scene fell back into its quotidian disorder.
I think this very well describes both the intuition and patience that Cartier-Bresson had. My own experience of looking for and capturing these moments has given me a whole new respect for those people who can do it on a consistent basis.
So, where do I stand regarding the decisive moment debate? I think there’s life in the old idea yet. I can’t do it myself, but that doesn’t prevent me from admiring people who can.
Ghazzal, Z. (2004). The Indecisiveness of the Decisive Moment. At: http://zouhairghazzal.com/photos/aleppo/cartier-bresson.htm [Accessed 02 April 2016]
Pantall, C. (2012). The Present. At: http://www.photoeye.com/magazine/reviews/2012/05_17_The_Present.cfm [Accessed 02 April 2016]
Wells, Liz (ed.) (2015) Photography: A Critical Introduction [Kindle Edition] From: Amazon.com (Accessed on 23.09.15)