Category Archives: Assignment 3 – Research

A Bible For Photographers

Read 1st November 2019

‘A Bible For Photographers’ is an essay written by Clement Cheroux which is issued alongside the the second edition of the Steidl printing of Henri Cartier-Bressions’ book ‘The Decisive Moment’. The Essay analysises the process of making the book through to its contents.

The title for the essay was taken from Robert Capa’s description of the ‘The Decisive Moment’ being “a bible for photographers”. (Capa 1972, cited in Cheroux 2018:3)

Clement Cheroux explains within the essay that Henri Cartier-Bresson preferred the medium of books rather than that of a magazine quoting Henri Cartier-Bresson as saying ‘The words are those of the photographer, but the phrasing is that of the magazine.’ (Cartier-Bresson 1959, cited in Cheroux 2018:3) He also explaines that Henri Cartier-Bresson found it frustrating that he did not have any control over the chosen images, the sequence that they were arranged, and their layout when published in the media.

He then goes on in his essay to detail the attempts that Henri Cartier-Breson made to produce a photography book prioir to ‘The Decisive Moment’ coming to fruition. These attempts went back into his early career to around 1933.

Following this Clement Cheroux details the collaborations that came together in order to make ‘The Decisive Moment’ a reality from Teriade, Armatiage Watkins to Richard L. Simon of Simon and Schuster, together with the support of Magnum Photos and Robert Capa and his family.

Clement Cheroux dedicates a section of the essay to highlight the uniqueness of the physical book itself. The size of the book being 37 x 27.4 cm in order to perfectly accomodate the images contained within, which were taken on 24 x 36 film. This allowed a page to be filled by a single vertical image or two horizontal images with an even border. Alternatively it allowed for a single horizontal image to spread over two pages. Furthermore, the orignal edition was printed by the Dreager Brothers on the highest quality white matte paper encapsulating the book within the realms of Fine Art. The printers were able to obtain a vast tonal range allowing for detail to come through within the shadows. Conversley the highlights worked on the same premise and were not left pure white allowing more of the detail to come through. Care was also taken in the binding of the book allowing for the book to open up flat between the pages.

Clement Cheroux continues the essay by highlighting that the book is effectively split into two parts. The first part mainly compromising of photographs taken prior to the set up of Magnum Photos in 1947 and the second part comprising mainly of photographs taken during his time at Magnum upto 1952.

The Essay continues to explore the uniquness of the book explaining that it was exremely rare for a photographer to write the text contained within the themselves and least of all a ‘How to text’ which Richard L Simon insisted on.

Conclusion

The essay provides a comprehensive and easy to understand insight into the making of ‘The Decisive Moment’ from its conception though to the finished article.

It was interesting to read about all the different collaborations that came togther to make the book a realisation. In addition to the amount of thought put into the whole process from the introduction, layout and physicality of the book itself.

It was also fascinating to learn how rare it was for the photographer to write the Foreward and for this to be a ‘How to’.

All in all this is an interesting read which allowes a better appreciation for the uniqueness of The Decisive Moment.

Bibliography

Clement Cheroux
Published April 2018
A Bible For Photographers
Germany
Steidl

Robert Franks – The Americans

Read 5th November 2019

The Americans is a collection of photographs that Robert Frank took whilst travelling around America.

Robert Franks managed to encapsulate the era of when the images where taken, together with portraying the atmosphere all around him.

Fig. 1.

Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey 1955–56

The above image is of two ladies stood in their windows with the American flag flying between them, looking down watching/waiting for a parade to pass by their windows.

The photograph is a strong image that invokes the feeling of anonymity you experience whilst in a crowd and yet a feeling of inclusivity at the same time, as you stand together experiencing the same moment.

The composition of the two ladies stood in their windows looking out positioned either side of the frame creates the feeling of unity punctuated by the faces being partially obscured disguising their individual identity.

The decisive moment in this image for me is the flag being blown over the window on the right side of the frame completely obscuring the woman’s face, rather than dropping down. This has created a more dramatic image.

Fig. 2.

Movie Premier, Hollywood 1955-56

The photograph is of a crowd of admirers and onlookers watching and waiting for celebrities to walk past on the red carpet at a movie premier in Hollywood.

At first glance the above image appears to be one of glamour and celebrity society, but on closer observation you notice that the star in the foreground is out of focus. The photograph captures the vulnerability of the star being paraded infront of an admiring crowd, expressing that sometimes the lonliest place to be is with others. They see the persona that is portrayed, but not the person; you see me, but you don’t see me.

By focusing on the crowd that had turned up to catch a glimpse of the stars walking the red carpet, Robert Franks has captured two elements. The fascination and excitement that the general public have with fame, which is an obsession that has not changed to this day. In comparison to that of the vulnerability of the stars being paraded to satisify that obsession of the general public.

I would say that the decisive moment in this image is the woman walking into the frame who is out of focus, just as the photograph was being taken.

Fig. 3.

Drug Store, Detroite 1955-56

The image is of a row of men sat at the counter top of a diner with three waitresses working behind the counter at the far end.

You can just imagine how hot and sweaty and noisy the cafe was when this image was captured with every seat taken on the long narrow cafe counter.

Robert Franks has used an angle which creates a leading line out of the all the customers sat at the counter leading you up and down the image. This leading line enables you to exploring the whole cafe briefly stopping at the two gentlemen facing the camera, allowing the eye to move outwards around the waitresses behind the counter serving coffee.

The decisive moment in this image for me is all the seats at the counter being taken up with one man in the foreground leaning into his drink starting off the leading line. The leading line takes you up and down the image, combined with the one man who is dressed in a dark clothing stands out due to the contrast in his clothing to that of the others sat at the counter.

Bibliography

Frank R and Kerouac J
(2017)
The Americans
11th Steidl Edition
Steidl

Fig. 1.
Frank R
(1955)
Parade – Hoboen, New Jersey
[Photograph]
https://www.phillips.com/article/15343481/through-his-lens-robert-frank-s-america
(Accessed 8 November 2019)

Fig. 2.
Frank R
(1955)
Movie Premier, Hollywood 1955-56
[Photograph]
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/265004
(Accessed 8 November 2019)

Fig. 3.
Frank R
(1955)
Drug Store, Detroite 1955-56
[Photograph]
https://www.artic.edu/artworks/87181/drugstore-detroit
(Accessed 8 November 2019)

Garry Winogrand

Following my initial submission of Assignment 3 my tutor suggested in her feedback that I should look at Garry Winogrand’s work and to consider it in terms of The Decisive Moment.

During my research I discovered that Garry Winogrand was an american photographer, who is considered to be one of the most important and influential photographers of our time, due to his street photography documenting the evolution of the social and cultural landscape throughout his career.

Fig. 1.

Hard-Hat Rally, New York, 1970

This photograph was taken at the Hard-Hat rally in New York, also known as the Hard-Hat riot, where some 200 construction workers were sent in to immobolize approximately 1,000 students, who were protesting against the Vietnam War.

The photograph captures the chaos and noise of a highly charged rally on a hot day. You can hear the jeers in the crowd, which is enhanced by the two workers with thier mouths wide open and a microphone held infront by a reporter. The heat seeps out of the photograph with people squashed together and a haze in the background covering the building. All in all this is a highly charged image.

The image is of some of the construction workers who had been joined by many other civilians as they reached a police line. Many in the crowd are holding the American flag together with placards. There is a reporter from the WMCA radio station stood in front of them holding out a microphone attempting to interview or record the jeering from the crowds.

The photograph has been taken on a slant rather than keeping the horizon perfectly horizontal. This is shown by the buildings in the background which are tilting to the right. However, the slanted horizon does not stand out or change the perspective, due to the framing and angle the photograph was taken which holds a pole on the first third of the frame vertically. Thus using the pole compositionally as the main leading line.

The use of leading lines within the composition, appear to only be aligned for a fleeting moment each working in harmony with each other. The the vertical pole that the construction worker is holding combined with the reporters outstretched arm and the object coming in from the right side, all work together as leading lines taking you straight to the central person.

The natural light in the image has also worked to enhance the image. The light over the people in the foreground is a clean bright light creating a high contrast between the highlights and shadows whereas the light in the background is a soft light, almost smoggy creating a low contrast on the buildings and trees allowing it to fade away and not be a distraction.

If Garry Winogrand had stood slightly over to the right or left then all these elements would not have come together to produce a balanced, aesthetically pleasing image. This composition is not something that you can stage; but when you see all the elements starting to align just at the right time you draw up your camera and capture that image before everything moves and that moment of alignment is lost forever.

For me the decisive moment in this photograph was when all the elements came together compositionally combined with the framing creating leading lines that draw the eye into the image towards the workman. The light has also played a part in the decisive moment by creating a soft light in the background creating a low contrast avoiding it being distraction from the main subject.

Fig. 2.

Muhammad Ali-Oscar Bonavena Press Conference, New York, 1970

The above photograph is of Muhammad Ali being interviewed at a press conference in New York. Muhammad-Ali is surrounded by reporters and photographers recording the conference in their chosen media.

Muhammad-Ali is highlighted in the image by wearing a white dressing gown set against grey and blacks of the rest of the image. The converging arms surrounding Muhammad-Ali takes you around the image back and forth from him. The second man to stand out in the image is crouched by Muhammad-Ali wearing a mid tone shirt. You are drawn to him by following two of the outstretched arms. There is an almost blank space around him without much detail, which acts as a resting space for the eye whilst still taking in the gentlemen laughing. The other leading line is the row of reporters heads which naturally takes you along the row of men behind the barrier.

I have interpreted the decisive moment within this image in two parts. Firstly with all the reporters arms outstretched surrounding Muhammad-Ali creating lines leading you back and forth. It would be reasonable to surmise that this was not a split second moment, but one that allowed Garry Winogrand to quickly position himself for the framing of the image to capture that element. Secondly, there is a split second decisive moment where the photographer on the bottom right leans back to check his camera creating a fairly even dark tone around the laughing man crouched by Muhammad-Ali dressed in a mid tone shirt.

Fig. 3.

New York, ca. 1963

My final photographic example is of a person feeding an elephant, but you are restricted to the view of the elephants trunk and the persons hand with a proportion of their forearm.

The frame is not full of people with lots going on in the background. It is a simple clean elegant image, with just the wall going off into the background. Although this is an image that you could plan and set it up, by positioning yourself and a person to feed the elephant where and at the angle you wish, the actual image itself would need to occur naturally.

The trunk of the elephant and the hand aligning with the food dropping is the decisive moment for me. This form of symmetry can be planned to a certain degree, but ultimately it has to happen naturally, bringing the elements together. This image would have to occur naturally as you are photographing an animal, who you are able to coax, but not direct.

Bibliography

Fig. 1.
Winogrand G
(1970)
Hard-Hat Rally, New York, 1970
[Photograph]
https://fraenkelgallery.com/portfolios/the-1960s-public-relations
(Accessed 31 October 2019)

Fig. 2.
Winogrand G
(1970)
Muhammad Ali-Oscar Bonavena Press Conference, New York, 1970
[Photograph]
https://fraenkelgallery.com/portfolios/the-1960s-public-relations
(Accessed 31 October 2019)

Fig. 3.
Winogrand G
(c. 1963)
New York, ca. 1963
[Photograph]
https://fraenkelgallery.com/portfolios/the-animals
(Accessed 31 October 2019)

The (More or Less) Decisive Moments – Magnum Photos Article

The (More or Less) Decisive Moments.

An exploration of the decisive moment by Magnum photographers

https://www.magnumphotos.com/events/event/square-print-sale-the-more-or-less-decisive-moments/

Read 30th October 2019

For their 70th anniversary Magnum Photos wrote an article exploring the photographic theory; The Decisive Moment. They chose to explore this theory due to the strong relationship between them and the theory, which was devised by one of their co-founders Henri Cartier-Bresson.

The Agency approached their photographers and invited them to submit an image from their archive together with an explanation of how the decisive moment affected them and the image, if at all, opening up a debate.

The article comprised of 70 images coupled with the photographers text alongside a discussion on how the decisive moment effects their methods.

It was from reading this article that I discovered the straight translation of Images a la sauvette into English is not The Decisive Moment, but rather Images on the sly/fly. It was Henri Cartier-Bressons English publisher that coined the term The Decisive Moment for his essay.

Magnum Photos sums up the concept of The Decisive Moment:

“The decisive moment is often described as an ephemeral or spontaneous composition perfectly captured by the photographer… However, the decisive moment is also an expression open to interpretation, playfulness, and even rejection…”

Magnum Photos, 2016

Jerusalem, Western Wall (Wailing Wall).1989. After the SIX DAY WAR a partition was put up in the plaza in front of the Wall to make a separation between the male and female worshippers. Women who protested and attempted to pray with Torah scrolls were attacked by ultra orthodox worshippers. Smoke greandes used by the police to disperse the crowd were caught by the demonstrators and thrown towards the women and the police.

Fig. 1.

Jerusalem, Western Wall (Wailing Wall).1989

The photograph above was taken by Micha Bar-Am and is of men running away from the wailing wall in Jerusalem just as police released a gas canister following a group of orthodox woman demonstrating their right to also pray rather than be in the secluded section for woman.

“When a group of orthodox women claimed their right to pray and wear shawls like men they were wildly attacked by zealots; police reacted with gas canisters to stop the mess.  Some of the attackers then threw the gas canisters   back at the crowd.  The situation became surreal and the jumping man seemed to be levitating and reminded me of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s iconic image.” (Bar-Am, M. 2016)

Fig. 2.

Untitled Chien-Chi Chang

The above image was taken by Chien-Chi Chang and is of fisherman on the Northern Inle Lake, Myanmar. The fishermen in the image are fishing the traditional way with a with paddle attached to a leg; leaving their hands free.

Chien-Chi Chang describes his Decisive Moment for this image:

“A decisive moment might have been when a fisherman was caught in the act of catching a fish, but now there are hardly any fish left. These fishermen are performers using Inle Lake as a backdrop, and thus the decisive moment is a moment of grace, when the light is right, the circles are in harmony, the legs upraised just so. Click” (Chang, C. 2016)

Fig. 3.

USA. Eastern Michigan Peninsula. 2015. Frozen Lake Huron.

This photograph was taken by Peter van Atgmael whilst on a road trip working for The New York Times. The image is of Lake Huron, which was partially frozen at the time during a sunset.

Peter van Atgmael describes his Decisive Moment for this image as follows:

“On the surface, this is a static landscape …  I took a few frames and waiting, stamping my feet to ward off the bitter cold.  I found a patch of frozen ice, some reeds, and a few icicles, and I felt I had found my composition, There was no conscious reason, it was a scene like many others, but something told me to stop. That mysterious guidance by the subconscious is what I love about photography.  I waited, and as the winter light changed rapidly and the clouds shifted formation, the falling light swept over the scene with a particular beauty.  I shot a few frames and it began to shift again.  In the stillness of the scene, I’d found my decisive moment.” (Atgmael, P. 2016)

After reading the above article it is clear that the meaning of The Decisive Moment is personal to each photographer and can not be pigeon holed into a specific genre. It is an all encompassing concept that relates more to the framing, composition and lighting of an image that is not staged, but rather a fleeting moment in time.

Bibliography

Fig. 1.
Bar-Am M
(1989)
Untitled
[Photograph]
https://www.magnumphotos.com/events/event/square-print-sale-the-more-or-less-decisive-moments/
(Accessed 30 October 2019)

Fig. 2.
Chang C
(2015)
Untitled
[Photograph]
https://www.magnumphotos.com/events/event/square-print-sale-the-more-or-less-decisive-moments/
(Accessed 30 October 2019)

Fig. 3.
Atgmael P
(2015)
USA. Eastern Michigan Peninsula. 2015. Frozen Lake Huron.
[Photograph]
https://www.magnumphotos.com/events/event/square-print-sale-the-more-or-less-decisive-moments/
(Accessed 30 October 2019)

Citation

Atgmael P
(2016)
‘The (More or Less) Decisive Moment’
In: Magnum Photos
[Online]
At: https://www.magnumphotos.com/events/event/square-print-sale-the-more-or-less-decisive-moments/
Accessed on: 30 October 2019

Bar-Am M
(2016)
‘The (More or Less) Decisive Moment’
In: Magnum Photos
[Online]
At: https://www.magnumphotos.com/events/event/square-print-sale-the-more-or-less-decisive-moments/
Accessed on: 30 October 2019

Chang C
(2016)
‘The (More or Less) Decisive Moment’
In: Magnum Photos
[Online]
At: https://www.magnumphotos.com/events/event/square-print-sale-the-more-or-less-decisive-moments/
Accessed on: 30 October 2019

Magnum Photos
(2016)
‘The (More or Less) Decisive Moment’
In: Magnum Photos
[Online]
At: https://www.magnumphotos.com/events/event/square-print-sale-the-more-or-less-decisive-moments/
Accessed on: 30 October 2019

Robert Frank

I came across the work of Robert Franks while researching street photography.  Robert Frank took a different approach to other photographers.  He photographed the everyday mundane drudgery of life, without setting up any compositions in the way that Walker Evans did, although Robert Franks did work alongside Walker Evans earlier on in his career.

Trolley, New Orleans

Fig. 1.

The image above was taken just before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person.  The image clearly shows the separation in America between White people and Black people at a turning point in America’s history. 

The people on the bus appear to be aware that their photograph is about to be taken with everyone looking at camera except the lady in the last window.  The two children in the middle of the frame draw your eye in straight away with the girls white top. You are then drawn to the man in the window to the right of the children who has a a lacklustre to his expression.  He looks tired and browbeaten almost demoralized and in despair.

In the City of London, you are herded onto public transport and packed in like cattle.  Some people make friends who travel on the same transport at the same time ending up in a huddled group chatting.  Others just stare out the window watching the world go by as they try to switch off from work with normally with a blank/vacant expression on their face. This would be a possible image to consider when photographing in the City, either on a bus, train or tube.

Canal Street, New Orleans

Fig. 2.

The above image is of a busy street in New Orleans. Franks has used a dark black and white tonal range in this image. By using the darker tonal range the detail in the shop window has merged into the background and does not cause a distraction from the passers by. It has also created a separation between the passersby and the backdrop allowing your eye to concentrate on the people in the crowd. The framing of the image also conveys the hustle and bustle of the street. Franks has not worried about people being chopped by the frame leaving your imagination to continue out adding more people to the scene. The height that he has taken the image also creates a deep pavement that is approximately 3 to 4 people deep reinforcing the how busy the scene is as you are unable to see he whole face or body of each passerby. Although this could be seen as a mundane image it captures a social aspect and fashions of the time.

Former actress Edna Wallace Hopper, now in her mid-80s, exiting Wall Street subway en route to her office, NYC

Fig. 3. 

I’ve picked up on the above image as one of the images I am considering trying to capture is of the City workers coming out of the Underground on their way to work or home depending on the time of day I choose to take my images.

In the image Franks has positioned himself slightly to the right of the center of the subway exit, which has allowed people to walk straight up the stairs rather than having to separate in order to walk around Franks. The angle he has used looking down into the ticket hall allows fractions of the detail from the ticket machine and booth in the highlights informing you if what is h=behind without creating a distraction. By looking down into the subway when taking the image everyone is on different elevations, which draws the eye down and then back up to the forefront of the image.

Illustrations

Fig. 1.
Frank R
(1955)
Trolley, New Orleans
[Photograph]
https://www.phillips.com/article/15343481/through-his-lens-robert-frank-s-america
(Accessed 7 June 2019 2019)

Fig. 2.
Frank R
(1956)
Canal Street, New Orleans
[Photograph]
https://www.danzigergallery.com/exhibitions/robert-frank-s-america?view=slider#17
(Accessed 7 June 2019 2019)

Fig. 3.
Frank R
(1953)
Former actress Edna Wallace Hopper, now in her mid-80s, exiting Wall Street subway en route to her office, NYC
[Photograph]
http://www.howardgreenberg.com/artists/robert-frank?view=slider#7
(Accessed 7 June 2019 2019)

Philip-Lorca DiCorcia Continued

Because my idea for the Assignment has changed and I now plan on taking photographs of people on the fairground rides at Carter’s Steam Fair I decided to revisit Dicorcia’s work. After reviewing his photographic series ‘Heads’ and seeing the way he picked individuals out of the crowd, I felt that his work would be a good guide/inspiration to the way I want to capture the fair.

My initially researched Philip-Lorca DiCorcia for Project 1 The frozen moment and my research for this can be found here https://emma519041.wordpress.com/2019/05/30/philip-lorca-dicorcia/

Igor, 1987

Fig. 1.

In this image you can the motion blur of another train passing out of the window telling the viewer that they are not static, but rather on the move.  The colour of the seats compliment and highlight the goldfish in the clear bag of water that the main subject of the image is holding.    The subject of the image is sitting down and is composed on the left half of the frame.  It appears that DiCorcia has taken this image using a wide angle from knee height as the angle has distorted the size of the subjects hand in comparison to the other and face.  There is a slight fish eye effect to the image linking it back to the goldfish.

New York, 1993

Fig. 2.

Dicorcia has used two effects to allow the subject of this image to stand out.  The first being the shallow depth of field separating her from the street she is walking down and passers-by.  The second is the colour.  The street has a grey colour with the people walking around in subdued coloured clothes allowing them to blend more with the street.  Whereas the subject is wearing a white coat and has orange hair bringing her to the forefront allowing her to stand out from her surroundings.  Looking at the image it looks like Dicorcia has used a flash which has gone off as the subject passes highlighting her left side bringing more clarity and vibrancy to the colours.

Francesco,1985

Fig. 3.

When viewing this image, the shadows don’t appear to correspond with the subject on his bike.  The shadows in this image fall right to left.  However, the subject is fairly evenly lit with a light halo around him from behind, which makes me wonder if DiCorcia has lightened the shadows on the subject to enhance him and bring more separation from his surroundings.  This is something that I will need to consider and see the effect on my images if the light isn’t good enough.  Will I need to bring the shadows up on the subjects due to the shade created by the roof of the rides?  If so, I need to keep in mind that this creates noise within the image and I will need a fine balance between the shutter speed, exposure and ISO.

DiCorcia has used a slow shutter speed on this image to create the motion blur of the bus coming down the road and the two people walking away down the pavement.  The composition of the photograph takes you from the main subject, who is brighter than the rest of the image, down to the crushed can of Coca Cola.  The pop of red from the can against the grey of the pavement stands out creating a path via the white curb to the two people walking away.  I am then taken out if the tunnel to someone riding a bike with a red jacket following the white curb edge.  The yellow of the taxi brings you back into the tunnel and onto the bus as your focus shift to move back forwards to the main subject of the image.  This has created a great tension within the frame keeping you in the tunnel except for a brief glimpse out into the open with the rider before being brought back into the tunnel by the taxi.

Illustrations

Fig. 1.
DiCorcia P
(1987)
Igor
[Photograph]
https://www.phillips.com/detail/PHILIP-LORCA-DICORCIA/NY040115/305
(Accessed 8 June 2019)

Fig. 2.
DiCorcia P
(1993)
New York, 1993
[Photograph]
http://www.findartinfo.com/english/art-pictures/7/65/0/Color%20Coupler%20Print/page/40.html
(Accessed 8 June 2019)

Fig. 3.
DiCorcia P
(1985)
Francesco,1985
[Photograph]
https://www.moma.org/collection/works/46121
(Accessed 8 June 2019)