The ‘decisive moments’ is often thrown around in street photography, but it needs to be explained more. Many cite both as the secret to success in their images and are lusted after by beginners. A large segment of the photography community is devoted to decisive moments.
What are decisive moments exactly? What’s the difference between a powerful moment and a decisive moment? What is it that makes a moment strong? This guide will answer these and other questions.
Origin of the Decisive Moment
We must first understand the origins of this idea to grasp what a decisive moment is entirely. The term’ powerful moments’ is as old as photography itself. It describes a particularly well-timed photograph.
The modern definition of ‘decisive moments’ is rooted in a specific point of origin. You may already know the name of this origin: Henri Cartier Bresson.
Henri Cartier Bresson: A Primer
It is only possible to discuss street photography by discussing Henri Cartier Bresson’s photographs and their legacy. This isn’t as exaggerated as it sounds. It’s a fantastic testament to how he has shaped and inspired generations of photographers.
The Fame and Achievements
It’s essential to understand Cartier Bresson to appreciate his importance. He was born towards the end 19th century and took up photography after World War One. He was one of the world’s first 35mm film photographers to achieve international success. This choice of film was considered odd at the time. Many criticized the small, noisy, and blurry negatives as not up to professional standards. Cartier Bresson, however, instinctively knew how to make 35mm work for him.
He learned how to use the anonymous look of his equipment and high depth of focus to take pictures without his subjects knowing. Cartier Bresson was a master of candid photography by developing and expanding techniques such as zone focus. Some people claim that he invented the concept of “the photographer as an observer.”
The result was stunning street photographs with a signature style that nobody else has been able to imitate since.
Cartier Bresson Literature
Henri Cartier Bresson is a pioneer and innovator praised for his photography and his writings about artistic theory and creative techniques.
His books are full of historical significance. Originally published under the French title Images a la Sauvette in 1952, this book deals with Cartier Bresson’s thoughts on photojournalism technique. The French title is translated literally as ‘Images in the Rush.’ This fits the subject matter perfectly. The book is devoted to the challenge of taking great photos in the heat of the moment. There needs to be more time to prepare and frame moving subjects.
This is, without a doubt, the book that launched Henri Cartier Bresson into international fame among photographers. The English edition of the book would continue to sell more than most other photography titles for many years. The translated title?
The Decisive Moment is the answer. Henri Matisse’s famous front cover of the book is the first place where the problem begins with the meaning. Because the English edition was called ‘the Decisive Moment,’ generations of photographers and art critics have used it to describe Henri Cartier Bresson’s artistic and personal philosophy.
The waters have been muddied. Some might think Bresson’s notions of decisive moments are contradictory or unintentional.
To truly understand this term, it is essential to read the original meaning.
Perfect timing or raw emotion?
The debate over decisive moments is a battle between timing and emotion.
What makes a decisive moment? It could be the subject, the emotional expression of the person, or their role in an unforgettable scene that can be immortalized. Henri Cartier Bresson was definitely in the second camp. He left no room for ambiguity in explaining his concept of the decisive moments. Cartier Bresson outlines a theory that focuses on maximizing composition to ensure the moment of shutter release is definitive. This is another way to say take your time with the moment of decisiveness. He suggests that you should learn how to make it.
Modern Interpretations: How to Choose
There’s no need to limit the definition of the decisive moments to Cartier Bresson. You will find a lot of different uses for ‘the powerful moments’ in contemporary photography theory. Henri Cartier Bresson’s idea of the decisive moment is no longer relevant. Some see the decisive moments as the moment that the shutter is triggered, transforming a real-world situation into a frozen photograph. The finishing touch, which converts an unfinished painting into a masterpiece or a novel into a masterpiece, is also crucial.
Street photography: The importance of decisive moments
After defining the basic concepts, we must ask ourselves what this concept means to today’s Street Photographers. Is the idea of a decisive moment still relevant, or has it become so diluted and weathered that it has become passe? Remember the original French title, Images on the Run. Modern street photographs have a genuine, authentic character. This raw, un-edited version of an everyday scene reveals a greater truth.
This ‘raw,’ candid style differs from staged photography because it relies on the photographer’s ability to tell a story through their pictures without planning. It’s more important to master the artful composition of the image and visualize it before pressing the shutter. If you have this skill, it doesn’t matter if you shoot on the streets in Paris, France, or Paris, Texas.
Henri Cartier Bresson’s advice to his readers was to avoid developing a sixth sense for capturing the most unlikely yet immortal moments around them. It’s more important to take pictures that give a sense of composition to an ordinary moment. He argues that you can create something unique this way.
This perspective will stop you from waiting for the perfect shot. You can instead embrace the idea that there are great shots all around you, just waiting to be captured!