I initially found the concept ‘The Decisive Moment’ to be confusing, which I feel showed in my initial submission. After researching the meaning of ‘The Decisive Moment’ further, I had a lightbulb moment. Once I realised the term ‘The Decisive Moment’ was not a straight translation of ‘Images a la sauvette’, but was actually coined by Henri Cartier-Bressons English publisher everything started to make sense. Once I fully understood this and that the real translation is images on the fly/sly it became a lot clearer.
During my research it became apparent to me that sometimes the decisive moment is mistaken to mean Street Photography, which it is not. There is so much more to this photographic theory than simply this. The photographer should look for a fleeting moment, where the composition, framing and lighting all work together in harmony to create an image of interest.
For me the theory of the decisive moment is wide reaching, and covers many subjects from people to landscapes to symmetry. You are looking for everything to perfectly align just as you capture that moment. The scene should be organic and not staged. The closest you could get to staging would be to observe a scene that you anticipate something may happen, set up your framing and wait for that moment.
When reworking the assignment I decided to start afresh. By reworking my assignment, I would be making my decisions based on a greater understanding which would subsequently show through in my work.
I reverted back to my very first idea of going into the City of London and revisited the mind map I originally wrote. I chose to concentrate on the Mile Square, concentrating on Liverpool Street Station, Royal Exchange and Leadenhall Market as these areas are familiar to me. This would also set the connecting theme of the images being captured in the City of London.
There were two pieces of research that really influenced me on this assignment. The main one was Magnums article ‘The (more or less) Decisive Moment’. The article provided 75 images from various photographers together with their take on the decisive moment. It was the variety of images and explanations of the decisive moment from different photographers that provided me the freedom to look for quieter simpler scenes.
The second was Robert Franks The Americas, who took many images of the everyday in urban settings. Both pieces of research can be found by following the links below:
These two pieces of research reinforced that you should keep your mind open at all times. This form of photography is not something that you can meticulously plan, but can go with an idea of the type of scenes you may wish to capture. Its for this reason that I kept my concept fluid, without setting any strict preconceptions of what to capture.
Although the parameters of the assignment were to set your camera to shutter priority, I knew that I could still influence the aperture chosen and focal plane through utilising techniques that I established in Exercise 3.1.
An example of how I used this knowledge is best reflected in my approach to Leadenhall Market. I know from experience that it is quite dark inside and would require a slower shutter speed. However, I did not want to choose a shutter speed that would capture motion blur. To be able to use a faster shutter speed I increased the ISO to 800 allowing me to choose 1/80sec. Upon entering the Market I took a test shot with these settings and reviewed the histogram to ensure that the image wasn’t underexposed. By doing this I knew that if I saw a scene which grabbed my attention, I would be able to capture it. Also, by looking at the details I knew the aperture would be f2.8. As a result, I only needed to be conscious of where I stood and positioned my focus point to obtain the focal plane I desired.
Test shot entering Leadenhall Market
1/250 sec, f2.8, 50mm, ISO 800
The photograph I took in Leadenhall Market
1/250 sec, f2.8, 50mm, ISO 800
When it came to processing my images, I was conscious that Henri-Cartier specifically draws your attention to the fact that by making alterations during post production this would alter the reality that had been captured.
‘We must neither try to manipulate reality while we are shooting, nor must we manipulate the results in a darkroom. These tricks are patently discernible to those who have eyes to see’
Cartier-Bresson 1952, cited in The Mind’s Eye Writings on Photography and Photographers 1999:27
With this in mind the only alterations I made to the composition of four of the images was to crop them to reflect the framing I intended at that time. I also used Lightroom to set my Whites, Blacks, Highlights and Shadows as the photographs were taken in RAW format rather than Jpeg with the exception of the first image.
The Decisive Moment
After choosing my final images I reviewed each one in depth, which can be read following this link – https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/emma519041.wordpress.com/1527
I feel that the last image in the series is the strongest and most successful image. All the elements in this image come together just at the right moment. This ranged from the composition with many leading lines taking you to the central figure together the lady walking into the frame just as I released my shutter.
In terms of lighting and composition I felt that the fifth image was not quite as strong, as I was not able to capture the ‘modern mans’ reflection in the window walking along with the soldiers. This has resulted in a more subtle connection between the two. However, I don’t feel that this is necessarily a bad thing as it leaves the image open to interpretation encouraging conversations.
I have found that my visual awareness has improved and I am becoming a lot more considered in the images I am trying to capture together with the composition. However, I feel that I still need to work a little on my framing and become more aware of what sits on the edges of the frame and their affect on the overall image.
The Mind’s Eye Writings on Photography and Photographers