Saturday, 13 July 2013

03.14 Moment (Henri Cartier-Bresson's "Decisive Moment")

Timing is central to composition in all instances where the subjects or their environments are temporally dynamic. Time might be measured in milliseconds, like the flow of drops of water that make up a stream; in hours, such as the migration of stars across the night's sky; or in an unguarded instant of feeling.

Henri Cartier-Bresson distilled this into the idea of "the decisive moment", articulating it as:
"Inside movement there is one moment at which the elements in motion are in balance. Photography must seize upon this moment and hold immobile the equilibrium of it." (from "The Photographer's Eye" by Michael Freeman)
So clearly was this expressed that "the decisive moment" can be found at centre of photography. (In some circles it has assumed the stature of dogma, stimulating a backlash of argument by post-modernists.)

Cartier-Bresson's idea of moment should best be taken at its simplest - that any activity of a subject within the image frame affects the quality of communication from moment to moment. The "decisive moment" might thus be found in:
  • composition - balance, imbalance
  • emotion - unguarded, affected
  • anticipation - framing, dynamic tension
  • repetition - movement, flow

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