My initial thought was to attempt to capture traditional decisive moment images through street photography. I considered going to York where, among many tourists, I would be less visible.
I liked my image below, taken using continuous drive to capture a cyclist at just the right moment and I considered taking similar images for Assignment 3. However, I was acutely aware that without Bresson’s instinct and skill, I was likely to spend many hours achieving relatively little.
Image taken prior to starting this course
Also, I had other ideas that I wanted to try, and so my thoughts turned to subverting the idea of the Decisive Moment.
Zouhair Ghazzal suggests that the decisive moment has become something of a cliche, an overused tradition comprising humorous or interesting moments (course notes p 70; see also my post: Research point-Zouhair Ghazzal ) I feel that in contemporary decisive moment photography there can be a reliance on comedy, and I wanted to avoid going down that route.
For example, I saw a woman with a dog, both facing away from me. The dog’s tail was in the air and he had a round bottom. The woman bent down to check his collar, putting her very round bottom just in the right position. I noticed the opportunity but did not take advantage of it. First, although it might have been funny, it’s not the type of thing I like; second, I felt it would have been disrespectful. Decisive? Probably.
I began to think about the wider meaning of the ‘Decisive Moment’. On a trip to the Lakes, I saw tourists taking selfies in traditional beauty spots and I realised that these images, finding their way into family photograph albums, were an individual’s own ‘decisive moment’ – that moment that they feel captures the essence of their holiday, whether that is standing amid the swans at Windermere or with the lake in the background as proof that they were there.
I started taking photographs of people taking selfies. In doing so, I allowed my subject to choose the decisive moment. I wondered if and how I could incorporate this into my assignment as a challenge to the photographer as decisive moment decision-maker.
I looked again at Martin Parr. His exhibition at The Hepworth (see my post Martin Parr ) examined the idea of what is traditionally seen as being worthy of being photographed . I felt that my idea of letting the subject choose the decisive moment furthered the debate. Parr’s image (no 10), of people having selfies taken at the leaning tower of Pisa was also of interest to me.
In observing my selfie-takers, I found that creating interesting images was not an easy task. One positive, I found that despite my fears of being intrusive, these people were sufficiently engrossed as to render me completely invisible. I wondered about this and felt that I somehow wanted to remove the people from their chosen spots, and reposition them somewhere that more resembled my idea of the Lakes.
Since much of my view of the Lakes was from the passenger seat of our van as my husband negotiated his way round the narrow roads, I began to see the scenery as something of a blur as it whizzed past my window. I felt that this was my true picture of the Lakes, perhaps even a decisive moment, since my images, taken with my camera resting on the half open window, with a slow shutter, as we travelled, could never be repeated. I really liked the abstract effect of some of these images. See my post Exercise 3.2 The trace of movement
I decided I would like to try to merge my images with those of my selfie-takers, to create a new (un)decisive moment, that challenged the convention by superimposing one decisive moment on top of another.
I included some of these attempts in my sketch book:
However, I realised that I didn’t yet have the technical skill to make this work and therefore rejected the idea for this assignment.
I was, however, not ready to let go of the idea completely and, inspired by Rob Bloomfield’s image (course notes p38), I felt that I might be able to use double exposure to get across my ‘double-challenge’ message that questions both the role of the photographer and the subject in choosing the decisive moment. Perhaps tenuous but for some reason I felt I wanted to see it through.
My camera does not have the function as standard so I made numerous attempts to download a double exposure application. To cut a very long story short, I eventually succeeded and took a few images as practice shots. You can see the results here.
Despite much time and effort, I decided against this as a realistic option for my assignment since, again, I felt I lacked the experience and skill to make it work.
Inspired by my consideration of Lake District views, I was interested in the idea that landscape can have a decisive moment. I considered what would make a decisive landscape moment. I looked at landscape images, collected some in my sketch book, and tried to consciously notice when the landscape in real life caught my attention. I went for a ‘photo drive’ in my local area and I found that the light emphasising a particular field, or building or flower, created, for me, a decisive moment in that the moment was fleeting, soon to disappear, but had made me look twice. For example the orange of berries against a beautiful blue sky (opposites on the colour wheel and therefore harmonious) created a decisive moment image for me.
I found a definition of the decisive moment in landscape photography:
‘Landscape photography is as much about the decisive moment as is street photography. You can take a good photograph if you have an interesting subject, and you can take a good photograph if you capture the right moment. However, to take a great photograph, you need to capture an interesting subject at the right moment.’ (2016 Photographylife.com)
I decided that I wanted to try to capture natural landscapes for my assignment, but I wanted also to personalise my images, giving my work a theme.
My background is in Literature and I began to consider what the decisive moment means in literature. Usually referred to as the turning point, the decisive moment in literature is that moment that is pivotal in the story, sometimes a fraction of time that forever changes the course of events. I considered that my literary decisive moment could also be that moment where a landscape encapsulates the significant theme of a novel, or a well known quote or image within the novel.
Inspired by Francesca Woodman’s image and my interpretation of it as depicting the short story: The Yellow Wallpaper, I considered how I might combine my love of literature, and therefore something of my personality, with my photographs.
I decided to combine a decisive photography moment with a decisive literature moment and so collected landscape images that represented some of my favourite novels. I photographed subjects that caught my eye because of how the light fell or the colours were exaggerated, or because of a feeling or mood that I saw in the landscape and I presented them in a photo-book where I could show the image and the appropriate text from my novels, side by side.
I made a contact sheet of my images of selfie-takers to give you an idea of what I considered. They were not usable in the end but I enjoyed the learning and the process..
Photographylife (2016) The Decisive Moment in Landscape Photography. At: https://photographylife.com/the-decisive-moment-in-landscape-photography (Accessed 31.10.16)