My favorite photographer is Henri Cartier-Bresson.  In addition to being amongst the stealthiest of photographers (rumor has it that he could finish several rolls of film in a crowd without anyone even remembering that he was there), he had an uncanny ability to capture moments.  Cartier-Bresson said the following of photography in the preface to his 1952 book Images à la sauvette (The Decisive Moment): “c’est dans un même instant et en une fraction de seconde reconnaître un fait et l’organisation rigoureuse de formes perçues visuellement qui expriment et signifient ce fait.”  Isn’t that remarkable?  If you don’t believe me, here’s the translation: “Photography is simultaneously and instantaneously the recognition of a fact and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that express and signify that fact.”  Things often sound better in French.

I am a firm believer that you can often experience and remember instances of life more fully without a camera (I once shot a whole role of film of the legendary Japanese hardcore band Envy only to have no recollection of the music, their performance, or the feel of the show whatsoever).  Though I am no photographer (I haven’t used film in years), I do recognize that photography has its own magic, however two-dimensional and compartmentalized it may be.  The following are a few photographs I took which are decisive enough for me because they document something that was very briefly happening and because what materialized on my digital camera was an aesthetic surprise.  Naturally, I wish you could imbibe the rich stories of people and places which live and breathe outside the confines of the frame, but unfortunately that is not possible.  As we say in English, c’est la vie.

Bethlehem, Palestine.
Lake Shore Drive, Chicago.
Hanoi, Vietnam.
Akko, Israel.
Neve Tsedek, Israel.
Halong Bay, Vietnam.
Millenium Park, Chicago.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.
New Delhi, India.

One thought on “The Decisive Moment

  1. Being a long term fan of Cartier-Bresson myself I’ve also been fascinated by that illusive ‘decisive moment’ and trying to work out the when, how and why of it. And it is true thatcompletely agree that being a photographer swept up in the ‘catch the moment mindset’, it’s possible to miss the overall feeling and grander panorama of the event itself. It’s a tricky balance!
    Enjoyed the few that you managed to capture and share here- Nice photos!
    And yes, things often do sound so much better in French! 😉


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