Research and Reflection into The Decisive Moment For Assignment 3

When I began to think about assignment 3 and “The Decisive Moment” a concept made popular by Henri Cartier-Bresson, I wanted to do some research into what this meant in photography and what it meant for me personally.

This concept is typically associated with Street Photography, owing to its spontaneity and the need to capture fleeting, candid moments. Coupled with the fact that Cartier-Bresson was himself a street photographer and was extremely accomplished in achieving such shots.

Cartier-Bresson himself talked about luck in capturing such moments and of course this does play it’s part. You are lucky to be in the right place at the right time but that isn’t all there is. What if you don’t “see” the moment? How can you then take advantage of the “luck” that has been presented to you? You would still need to develop the conscious ability to “see” (or to “know” when to release the shutter) and the unconscious ability to “feel” (to use your intuition). The “seeing and knowing” are the essence and a simplistic definition of the decisive moment.

I believe the Decisive moment has its place across all of photography when you are dealing with anything other than still life and completely static objects.

For instance, if you are staging a portrait shoot. You do have more control in this environment, but you are dealing with a conscious being, whether it be an animal, child or adult who is in control of their own movements and expressions. The slightest change in a facial expression can transform a photograph, so having the intuition and awareness to know and to feel when to press the shutter, how to frame and compose it and which angle best captures the moment are all decisive actions that we perform as photographers. In another second, the conditions may change and that moment may be lost forever.

The decisive moment isn’t just reserved when shooting people or animals. The weather and landscape are in a constant state of change. Out in the open, you have little control over the elements, so photographers would need to use their judgement and intuition about when to press the button.

The concept, therefore is very broad and can be applied to photography in many ways.

You could argue that there are situations which allow for the potential to recreate a moment. You can revisit a landscape, when the weather or light conditions are more optimal. Portrait shoots can be redone. There is perhaps, less pressure in these circumstances, but a photographers ability to know when to capture the photograph still needs to be present, that intuition and seeing ability still needs to be present. You can revisit the same place one hundred times, but if you are not “seeing” you picture, it will be a futile exercise and you will never achieve the desired result.

When I began to contemplate assignment 3. I considered subjects which I was drawn to and found my options to apply the decisive moment as infinite. But, I wanted to approach this particular assignment differently to my previous 2 and challenge myself as a photographer. I had already explored street photography, not only for my assignment 1, and I felt that not only my confidence but my eye for capturing decisive moments needed more practice and improvement. I wanted to test my ability to work on my own decisive moments. I know there is still room for vast improvement in my work across all areas and I know there will always be something to add and to expand. I did, however want to capture the essence of Henri Cartier-Bresson in my assignment this time. I am particularly drawn to his images in which the natural elements are used to create a depth to his street photography, in particular the weather (such as rainy days) so I chose to venture out on a particular day in which there had been heavy rain preceding my shoot. I just had to wait for the right conditions to be present and to apply the concept of the decisive moment. Seeing that my previous two assignments were both in black and white, this time I will work in colour. This differs from the Cartier-Bresson’s photographs that had inspired me but I feel it is important to not only maintain a sense of uniqueness to my work and not blindly copy someone else but it also pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to explore photography beyond it.

These photos are some of which I have been particularly drawn to that capture the decisive moment and the essence of a rainy day.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Contact Sheets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflection of Assignment 3

After reviewing the assessment criteria following completion of assignment 3. I have made the following considerations with my work.

  • Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills: I believe my final photographs are well composed, I have used framing techniques, leading lines and application of colour to link the series. I have demonstrated good visual awareness with regards to choosing my moment to shoot and have used my camera correctly with sound technical knowledge of what settings were needed to obtain the best photograph.
  • Quality of Outcome: I have communicated my chosen subject clearly throughout my pictures and with my contextual descriptions. I have applied the knowledge I learnt throughout my research into the decisive moment and chosen, what I believe to be a series of photographs that demonstrate the concept well.
  • Demonstration of Creativity:  I worked with different angles, and applied the concept in a way that meant my pictures weren’t simply recordings of truth, I have explored abstraction and used the environmental conditions and placements of architecture to give my photographs depth.
  • Context: I ensured that I spent sufficient time researching the subject before shooting, I have explained my thought process both before and after.

Tutorial Notes Regarding Assignment 3

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Student name Rebecca Foxley Student number  516763
Course/Unit PH/Expressing Your Vision Assignment number  3
Type of tutorial  Audio-Visual    

Overall Comments

A decent submission that needs some editing to fully fulfil the brief.

Assessment potential 

Assignment 2 and 4 Assessment potential

I understand your aim is to go for the Photography/Creative Arts* Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment.  In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.    

Feedback on assignment 

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity 

Notes from, and in addition to, our Hangout tutorial :

As you wanted to speak with me before sending work off to print we decided to discuss this submission digitally and we will use a portion of the A4 tutorial to discuss your prints for Assignment 3.

You’ve submitted the minimum of six images, my initial reaction is that we have five reflections, three of moving people stilled, and two of static objects. 

Perhaps not spoken about enough with submissions is the importance of the edit, always hit the brief first. Your writing points to following ‘in the tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson’. Within his oeuvre, of course, an edit such as this could be selected but you have to remember these are the only six images of yours that we are looking at – don’t be afraid of repetition, and keep the theme immediately apparent. Think about what about what you have written about the decisive moment. This will help you decide why three hit that spot of the most commonly interpreted of CB’s decisive moment and the later three less so.

I would suggest six of the humans stilled, the extra layers of photographers/middle aged white men/British streets can come after.

So another three similar to the first three.

This may highlight that you needed a further shoot(s), so be it! You can’t have enough choice, and remember to post all of your contact sheets. 

Editing is hard, you always need more images as the theme gets tighter. 

You can talk about some of the threads that emanate from these photos and your choices – such as photographing photographers, shooting in poor weather, and on the street. Always reference other photographers, certainly look at Bad Weather by Martin Parr – you have already looked at his work but this series was one of his last in black and white, you could also look at another Magnum photographer – Trent Parke.

You could try to draw the line from Bresson’s rain work which you have cited, through Parr to your submission.

Researching will help you make thematic choices, after looking at Bad Weather for example, you may decide to tighten up your own criteria – all men, only bright colours, only visible puddles etc. You are looking to get to a point where looking at and reading about photographs influences you when you have a camera in hand.

Signpost on your blog what you feel like got right in relation to your understanding Cartier Bresson’s ideas. Highlight your confidence at shooting in public, and among crowds – these first three shots are ample evidence. You caught the moments, the compositions are good.

As a reference Cartier Bresson is good, but remember, it is of its time, and reflective of a different time of cultural understanding. If you are frustrated you need to search for other references. We then spoke a great deal about your more general dissatisfaction with styles and methods – see below.

Coursework

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity 

Decent evidence of working through the exercises – try to use each to experiment with something new.

Research

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis  

Follow up on the references above (and below).

Learning Log

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis  

Remember what I’d said in your first report about ‘signposting’ – letting readers (including yourself when reflecting) know when and where you have learnt something. So in your blog, highlight references, highlight your thinking (both with and without the camera). Particularly at the early stages of academic study, and especially in the arts, nothing is too small or apparently obvious a detail. A seemingly small development in any one of these assignments (or exercises) could be key to your practice in the future. 

Good to hear you are reading and that you’ve followed up recommendations from Assignment 2. Your blog is clearly written and well illustrated.

Suggested reading/viewing 

Context 

More Parr, and Parke above. If Nan Goldin inspires then pursue photographers in a similar vein – those on the ‘inside’. Make it your mission to find more inspiring photographers – they are out there. Where is your inspiration? If this search makes you question your own practice, that is learning. Think about what will make you pick up camera in a different way. As an idea I suggested a visit to the current Photographers’ Gallery exhibits – 

Tish Murtha’s work is in Gallery 2, upstairs is a body of work that feels poles apart – discover where you sit in relation to the contrasting shows.

On your blog, articulate your thoughts about your current dilemma, write about how you find work to be so ‘samey’, discuss what perceive as these ‘trends’? 

Summary 

Strengths Areas for development
  • Good compositions
  • Excellent observation
  • Challenging yourself on the street (and in bad weather)
  • Needs editing to form a coherent series
  • Make links to references
  • Continue to contextualise with wider selection of contemporary practitioners

Please inform me of how you would like your feedback for the next assignment: written or video/audio.

Tutor name Les Monaghan
Date  29/06/18
Next assignment due 29/09/18

Following on from my tutorial

I reflected on what my tutor had discussed regarding my selection and thought about my choices. I agree that my final edit was not completely satisfying. And, if I am honest with myself I thought this when I chose my selection.

I believe I need to focus on achieving a more coherent series instead of worrying about showcasing a vast variety of skills and ability and then sacrificing on achieving a series of photographs that mesh well with each other and say something as a whole. I need to make my idea more precise on what I am trying to achieve.  After returning to view my contact sheets from this particular shoot, I decided that, in order for me to be satisfied with my submission, I will need another shoot on a rainy day in the right conditions. I feel that this will give me more choice so that I can be confident I am making the right selection from a bigger choice of photographs. I will also be going out with a more definitive idea of what I will be looking for so I can ensure my observational skills are focused on the goal.

Follow on

Waiting for the right conditions, particularly a rainy day that left puddles on the ground throughout the summer was frustrating. Never have I ever wished for rain during the summer in the UK, but this year was the dryest and hottest that I can remember.

Suffice to say it left me with time to think, not only about my assignment but also about my photography as a whole. Being the perfectionist that I am, all this time to procratinate isn’t good for my creativity, I need to be getting out and just doing it. This was coupled with the fact that I hadn’t been satisfied with the choices I had made in assignment 3, I began to develop a mental block and started to dread returning to my study.

Not that I stopped taking photographs however, I was lukcky enough to travel a few times and visited some wonderfully photographic places that allowed me to explore various subject choices including architecture and landscape photography, which I discovered wasn’t as unnappealing as I had originally thought.

Then, at the beginning of December, during a weekend in Berlin, I finally got that rainy day with big puddles I was looking for and I felt inspired again. So, among taking photos around Berlin for my own pleasure, I ensured that I made the time to shoot some specific moments which tied in well with my original theme. I did wonder about the fact that the location wasn’t the same, but then, I hadn’t chosen Brighton as a specific but more because it was convenient to me and I felt that the change in location was justified as the subject was more to do with the weather and reflections than about the place.

I am clearly beginning to see a pattern in my work as well. Naturally and subconsciously when looking for angles and subjects I am drawn to reflections and shadows. Such as the way light will bounce from a wet floor at night and give a eerie depth to a photograph and add a beautiful contrast to the picture that makes it more visually pleasing to me. I look for people and the shape of leafless trees in shop windows and of course, the reflection made in a puddle on a calm, wet day.

I have added my extra photos below and made the decision to remove 3 from my original selection and include 3 more from these 6 to my final cut. I am now happy with my final selection and feel satified to move on to the next assignment.

I chose the first, second and fifth picture from the shots below.

I thought long and hard about my final choice and questioned whether I needed to include faces in all of shots to sequence them, which lead me to a different choice (the man in green) which I felt didn’t quite fit with the rest as it had a slightly different setting, being in a memorial garden in Berlin.

The choices I removed. 

Photograph 4: The Pavilion

Unlike the others so far, this photograph doesn’t contain people but is a shot of the reflection of the Brighton Pavilion behind the fencing in front of it. I felt it fitted well into my theme and had a dream like quality which added an abstract element. The pillars of the pavilion were framed in between the posts of the fencing (although a few centimetres difference in my angle may have worked slightly better to frame them perfectly) I chose to keep the fence posts somewhat at an angle as I felt it worked better with abstraction than to have perfect straight lines.

Photograph 5: Is it raining?

The statue looks as if it is holding it’s hand out to check for oncoming rain with the sun above shrouded behind the dark clouds. The conditions in the sky make for a well timed photograph in relation to my theme and that off the decisive moment. A different sky would have given a completely different feeling to this photograph.

Photograph 6: The Town Below

Taken on the i360 with the rain pouring down the windows, the reflection of the children observing the rain and city below. Their look was not one of joy and happiness which you might associate more with a sunny day, but one more fitting to the weather presented to them. The girl’s hair flies upwards with the air vents and the high altitude combined makes her appear almost like a child goddess or supernatural figure who has some control over the weather affecting the city as she observes it from above.

In Print

When I received my final photos in the post in print form, I found that I was able to view my photos immediately in a different perspective, then how they appear on a screen. As I opened the package, the first picture in the pile was “Girls in a Puddle” and it was upside down. I found that it gave a completely different aspect to my images and one which I really enjoyed, if not, preferred. I looked at the other photos and found that it didn’t work with every photo (the ones where no face is shown didn’t have the same effect) however, I am choosing to submit some of them upside down and leaving the faceless ones the right way up. The reason I feel this work, is because it blurs the sense of reality, it leaves you wondering and the faceless ones already to that. Being upside down gives them a sense of alternate reality, or a blur in reality, where you can’t tell what is real. Are we the real version of ourselves or is it what is reflected in others?

My objective has evolved in this assignment during the course of it and I now feel that the time it took me to complete is now worthwhile and I have discovered something that really interests me, and that is reflections!

My original 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.

I had already worked with reflections in my previous assignment and I was drawn to this again. But I chose the reflections in water and wanted to experiment with it further, however I didn’t want to make this assignment all about the reflections, but rather use the puddles in a way to support a rainy day theme.

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.

I wanted there to be an element of the location as well as just the people, so I included the local architecture and points of interest as well and since the photos were to be in colour, I also wanted to link the series with the colour in some way.

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/