Capturing the moment

Capturing that moment. A lot, maybe too much, has been made of the phrase attributed to Cartier Bresson ‘The Decisive Moment’ or ‘Images à la sauvette’. Whilst I intend to go out and about to try and ‘capture’ a moment I thought I’d relay my thoughts on an exercise I did a few months back – when it was warm. I wanted to try and capture people, close up and oblivious to the presence of the camera on them. What I found was that although some of these people knew I had a camera, hardly any, and none of those that I present here, thought that I was taking their picture. I believe this is true even of those that were looking directly at me, and therefore the lens. I shot with a fixed 23mm lens and therefore had to be close to the subject(s). All these shots could present ‘decisive moments’ and because they were shot with a digital camera the notion of shutter lag was something that I needed to compensate for. These subjects were close to the lens, they were, on the whole walking by and therefore the time they were apparent in front of the lens was quite short – I therefore needed to move fast. It would seem that the closer I am to the subject the more likely I will be able to discern a ‘presented narrative’. I also wonder about the value of this type of photography as they are naturally single image shots; they could be curated into a set like these below with no other connection except they are all images with two people in them, or they could be streets in Oxford, but I wonder about the contrivance of this type of editing. When I took these shots I wanted to include people, I tried to get as few as possible because I felt that the notion of a derived narrative would be easier to generate with as few a number of people in the shot as possible. However I think I will end up with constructed images, albeit with people central to the frame and narrative.

These contact sets were edited, as stated earlier, on the basis of the number two – I have others that include different numbers. I was particularly aware of a couple of things when I took the images. Firstly the shutter-lag issue that I mentioned earlier and secondly the slightly serendipitous outcomes as a direct result of that lag. It is difficult to compensate for and though after taking somewhere between 250 and 300 pictures over a short time I began to get a strong feel for it. However I wonder about the longevity of the term ‘decisive moment’ in respect of photography. Digital cameras have the aforementioned lag, pre 35mm cameras were generally too big and cumbersome to have the speed of operation that would be needed and so it wasn’t until the Leica-developed 35mm camera that photographers were able to be consistently nimble enough to be able to take these type of pictures. I wonder therefore if those decisive days are numbered? Certainly a lot of professional photographers are using larger format film cameras today for their private practice if they are using film. I’m wondering though about the use of HD video and extraction of individual images and whether that might be a source of moments to draw from?

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3 thoughts on “Capturing the moment

  1. Pleaed you’re giving them an ‘outing’. I wondered when you might do something with them. Seeing this selection I’m aware much more of the way in which people stand/walk and what that says about their personality.

  2. Pingback: John Umney – Gesture and Meaning

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