Here’s what Henri Cartier-Bresson, the father of modern photojournalism, said about his concept of “The Decisive Moment” in an interview with The Washington Post in 1957:
Photography is not like painting. There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.
That is the moment the photographer is creative. Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever. [#]
The phrase was taken from a quote by the 17th century Cardinal de Retz, who stated, “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.”
Image credit: A bit later after “the decisive moment” by AlexRK
If you go to Google Street View and type in “rue de londres, paris“, you can visit the location where photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson captured his famous street photograph Behind the Gare St. Lazare in 1932. It’s an ordinary location that became an iconic photograph through Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” style of photography. Cartier-Bresson notes,
There was a plank fence around some repairs behind the Gare Saint Lazare train station. I happened to be peeking through a gap in the fence with my camera at the moment the man jumped. The space between the planks was not entirely wide enough for my lens, which is the reason why the picture is cut off on the left.
If you know of any other iconic photo locations that can be revisited through Google Street View, leave a comment!
“rue de londres, paris” in Google Maps (via Erik Kim)
Behind the Gare St. Lazare is one of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson‘s best known photographs, and is frequently cited as an example of his “decisive moment” approach to photography. The photograph was made in 1932, but the oldest known print is dated 1946. That print will be sold at a Christie’s auction on November 11th along with 100 other signed prints, and is expected to fetch up to ~$250,000.
(via Christies via Foto Actualidad)
Back in 2006, Flickr user André Rabelo submitted the above photograph to the group pool of DeleteMe!, a group whose members vote on photos to weed out any photos that aren’t “incredible pictures, amazing, astonishing, perfect”. Sadly, the photograph was very quickly removed by popular vote.
Here’s a terrific 20-minute video that features Henri Cartier-Bresson — the father of modern photojournalism — talking about his views on photography and a selection of his amazing photographs. It’s both educational and inspiring.
The decisive moment, it is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.
– Henri Cartier-Bresson
If only there was one of these videos for every famous historical photographer!