The Decisive Moment
One of the great gifts of photography, I think, is his ability to observe suspending time and record for posterity, character full moments in life that normally passed by unnoticed and are lost in the giant vault of undescended history. Sally Gardner is one of the most influential collections of photographs of all time. Shot in 18 78 by the British photographer Edward My Bridge, the collection was created using a then revolutionary technique called instantaneous photography, which essentially was the photographic world's first ever motor drive to cut a long an interesting story short. One of the images proved conclusively that a horse, when galloping at one point, has all four hooves off the ground and that this occurred when the legs were gathered beneath the body and not extended, as had been depicted in paintings for centuries. In terms of human knowledge, it could be said it captured the decisive moment. Except it didn't. The decisive moment is a phrase attributed to the iconic Fre...
nch photographer and founder of modern photojournalism, Henri Cartier Bresson. His disposition went beyond the simplicity of timing to the exact moment the peak of action happening in front of the camera corresponded with the optimum composition in the frame. It's an important distinction. Essentially, what Cartier Bresson was saying was, the decisive moment isn't necessarily the best moment or the rarest one or the one hardest to capture. It's the one best represented in the camera. In other words, as a photographer, as well as paying close attention to the best moment, you also have to be mindful of where in the frame you position that moment, this image is a perfect example of a decisive moment. Now, pretty much any time of a tiger running in snow is the best moment. But this image goes beyond the singular dimension of action. The tiger is perfectly positioned center frame to draw your attention and hold it. The implied diagonal adds visual energy. Its gaze is staring you straight in the eye, creating tension between subject and viewer. And the eye level perspective adds to that tension. And finally the extended pores suspended just above the snow, creating separation between object and ground, which adds a sense of movement. So we have an iconic subject, compelling action, compositional integrity, dynamic perspective and separation, all coming together in one cohesive frame. The decisive moment All in all, what I'm saying here is photography isn't just looking at events and pressing the shutter release indiscriminately at the same time. Your eyes are observing the moment your mind must be assessing nuances of composition and design is multitasking at the speed of a computer, and it's not easy. But then, if it was, everyone would be doing it. After all, everyone owns a camera, right?