Henri Cartier-Bressons "Decisive Moment"

The Decisive moment
A recording of that one moment in time when all the elements line up to allow the artist to capture the perfect combination of light, shadow, color, action, expression and emotion to form the perfect image. A moment that can be expected maybe anticipated but not created. For if the image is created, as in the studio, it can be recreated time and time again and is not a fleeting moment in time. Since a decisive moment is unplanned and involves action or the temporary positioning of key elements it typically refers to dynamic developing situations.

The term Decisive Moment was first coined by the noted French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson considered by many to be the father of modern photojournalism Cartier-Bresson’s, The Decisive Moment, 1952 contains the term “the decisive moment” now synonymous with Cartier-Bresson: “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.”

A Henri Cartier-Bresson capture of a man jumping through a puddle

Cartier –Bresson believed that “Photography is simultaneously and instantaneously the recognition of a fact and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that express and signify that fact”

Chinese soldiers jumping in unison

“Photography is not like painting,” Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post in 1957. “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,” he said. “Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”

Medics care for a motorcycle crash victim

Robert Capa capturing the instant of death.

J.Scott Applewhites Pulitzer Prize winning photo of US President Bill Clinton, seconds before admitting he had lied about an affair.

“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… . In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject. The little human detail can become a leitmotif.”Henri Cartier-Bresson.

“I had just discovered the Leica. It became the extension of my eye, and I have never been separated from it since I found it. I prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung-up and ready to pounce, determined to “trap” life to preserve life in the act of living. Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph. . . "Bresson

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