Assignment Three – The decisive moment

Brief

1. Prints

Submit a set of between six and eight high-quality photographic prints on the theme of the ‘decisive moment’. Street photography is the traditional subject of the decisive moment, but it doesn’t have to be. Landscape may also have a decisive moment of weather, season or time of day. A building may have a decisive moment when human activity and light combine to present a ‘peak’ visual moment.

You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the ‘decisive moment’, or you may choose to question or invert the concept. Your aim isn’t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it’s a location, an event or a particular period of time.

2. Assignment notes

Submit assignment notes of between 500 and 1,000 words with your series. Introduce your subject and describe your ‘process’ – your way of working. Then briefly state how you think each image relates to the concept of the decisive moment. This will be a personal response as there are no right or wrong answers in a visual arts course. You’ll find it useful to explore the photographers and works referenced in Project 3, if you haven’t already done so. Don’t forget to use Harvard referencing.

Post your prints, no larger than A4, to your tutor together with your assignment notes.

Reflection

Check your work against the assessment criteria for this course before you send it to your tutor. Make some notes in your learning log about how well you believe your work meets each criterion.

Your tutor may take a while to get back to you so carry on with the course while you’re waiting.

Reworking your assignment

Following feedback from your tutor, you may wish to rework some of your assignment, especially if you plan to submit your work for formal assessment. If you do this, make sure you reflect on what you’ve done and why in your learning log.

Assignment Notes:

After researching the decisive moment, I decided to follow in the tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson and take my shots on the street, although this time I chose to work in colour, since my previous two assignments had been converted to black and white. This was new ground for me and something I am not so comfortable with, so I chose to challenge myself this time. Since there needed to be a linking theme, I worked with the element of rain and water. The reason for this, is that, for me, there is an emotive element to water which adds depth and interest to a photograph when used in different ways.

Originally, I chose to work a “rainy day” theme with my photos, exploring weather elements as well as people. This evolved progressively as I collected my shots, reworked my final selections and finally when I received my photos in print. My assignment became more about the reflections and less about a “rainy day” which in hindsight, was really rather ambiguous and without specific meaning as a theme on it’s own. Reflections became the main point of this, or rather the twist on reality that accompanies reflections. Are we the real version of ourselves or is the reality the thing that ourselves reflect?

My selection is based on this theme, some of my images are inverted, whilst others, without a face, remain upright, since these already give a sense of masked reality and uncertainty.

I waited for a series of rainy days to go out and shoot when there would be plenty of puddles on the ground and when the sky was overcast but still bright enough to capture detailed reflections in the puddles.

Photograph 1: Can you see me?

I happened upon another photographer who was busy taking photographs of his own reflection in a puddle, as he stepped into it, I seized the moment and took my shot, the ripples in the puddle were not intrusive on the reflection but framed the man well, creating a circle around him. He looked as if he was quite immersed in his work. I inverted the image and I enjoy the fact that his entire reflection is slightly obscured by the edge of the puddle. It appears as if his reflection is peeking back at him, not quite exposing itself in it’s entirety.

Photograph 2: Family of Three

A family wearing different coloured coats passed me by and I took the shot just at the time all three of their reflections were shown in the puddle in the foreground, it would have been preferable for the crowd that had been present, to not be in the photograph at all but I chose the time in which they created a frame around the family, rather than a time when they obstructed my view. When you are finding your moment amongst so many fleeting moments, you just have to take the plunge and shoot when the time feels right. With their backs turned, you could wonder who they are, what they look like and where they are going.

Photograph 3: Another World

I saw a young man walking towards me and chose the moment to shoot, just as he was completely framed in the puddle, there were no other faces present in my photograph, including that of the man which I felt would have been a distraction to his reflection. He is framed by the people around him who creating a good leading line to his feet and none of which were wearing any shoes which may have stood out, making his brightly coloured blue shoes all the more apparent. I inverted the image again, which allows you to view the reflection in more detail, and gives a sense of peeking into another world.

Revision to my final selection following my tutorial

As explained here I decided to edit my final selection following my tutorial. I removed photographs 4, 5 and 6 and replaced them with the following 3 photographs.

Photograph 4: The Flag

Taken in a Park in Berlin, I was initial photographing the flag in the puddle when these 3 girls walked into the shot, the conditions were just right (no breeze and clear skies without glare) to create a sharp image of their faces in the reflection, so that I felt I needn’t include their physical bodies to make this a strong shot and in keeping with my theme. The image has been inverted but that isn’t clearly obvious from this shot. You do however, get a sense of wonderment as to what you are looking at here, I don’t think its immediately obvious that this is a puddle.

Photograph 5 – Where do we Begin?

Again, this was shot in Central Berlin, I liked this because the man, who is looking straight ahead is clearly visible in the puddle, whilst the woman turns to look away and her reflection meets the end of the puddle, you can’t quite tell what she is looking at, both her viewpoint and reflection are obscured. I also like their colour coordinated outfits, both dressed in black on a dull day. It made them almost silhouettes in the daylight. This is inverted and I love the leading line where his feet and reflected feet meet, where does the real person begin and end and how is it related to the reflection we create.

Photograph 6 – Ripples

This shot of the feet and ripples in the puddle was particular favourite of mine, it embodied the feeling of a rainy day without giving too much away about the person walking along. The only sense you get it that they are somewhat preoccupied and have a place to be, since they don’t avoid stepping in the puddles as they go. Both the ripples and the feet sequenced in well with the other shots in this series and made me feel that it brought it to a close.

References:

  • Cheroux, C. (2008) Henri Cartier-Bresson (New Horizons) Thames And Hudson
  • O’Bourne, R. (2001)  Henri Cartier Bresson l’Amour tout court. Available at: www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL707C8F898605E0BF
  • Cheroux, C. (2015) Henri Cartier-Bresson (Masters of Photography) Aperture
  • https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographer/henri-cartier-bresson/