EYV Assignment 3 ‘The Decisive Moment’ Tutor Feedback and Reflection

My tutor suggested that I give more thought to my selection of photographs for this assignment since he felt that only two of them referred to the decisive moment.

He also asked me ‘are you sure tourist selfies are the decisive moment?’ Here he is referring to part of my initial thought process when I considered selfie-takers as creating their own decisive moment, not to the images I used for the assignment proper. See my post: EYV Assignment 3 First Thoughts for more about this.

In response to this comment first, then no, I don’t consider photographs of selfie-takers as photographic decisive moments, although I expect that a particular incident involving a selfie-taker could constitute a decisive moment image. I wanted only to record my thought process as I tried to decide how I would eventually approach the assignment. My tutor reminded me that ‘the decisive moment is a visual climax, not a story but a picture’. My actual assignment was an attempt to capture decisive moments within landscape and I can see that by linking my images to quotations from my favourite novels, I perhaps have tried instead to tell, or recall a story. In hindsight, this approach was made in an attempt to fulfil the brief of coherence, which I expressed using a literature theme. In terms of the decisive moment within each image, I relied on two things: first, something ‘decisive’ about the scene in terms of weather, for example, the mist over the hills that would be fleeting and changeable. Second, how I felt the scene linked to either a literary decisive moment or how it captured a specific mind-eye view I held about particular novels.

In terms of being more explicit about why I put my photographs with the particular quotations, and in consideration of my tutor’s comment that my selection was based on ‘personal favourites’ rather than any specific criteria related to the decisive moment, I am not sure I can construct anything of a reasonable argument otherwise. He is, of course, perfectly right. Some of my links were quite tenuous and I actually find it quite hard to be explicit about what I intended through this assignment, which is interesting since it has taken my tutor’s feedback to make me fully aware of this fact.

However, I will reflect here on what I did and why it failed to fully meet the criteria of the decisive moment and acknowledge that this is something that I will take away and learn from for future projects.

First, on reflection, I am pleased that I actually completed this assignment since I initially found the brief quite daunting. I spent many hours thinking about how I could approach it and trying to understand the theory around the decisive moment while also trying to make my response personal.

I got carried away with, not only the ‘official definition’ of the decisive moment but with what the decisive moment meant to me. In doing so, I feel that I certainly expanded my comfort zone and my creativity but I failed to adequately respond to the brief. However, I was pleased that my tutor liked the presentation of my work in a ‘photobook’ since I feel that it worked quite well for my project, and the process encouraged me to be more imaginative and creative.

I found Ghazzal’s critique ‘the indecisiveness of the decisive moment’ quite difficult, and my tutor commented that I should perhaps return to this to see if I can understand his point more deeply. Please see my re-working of this exercise at the link below.

My tutor also commented that it was good that I followed up issues from his feedback on assignment 2. I find it very helpful to my learning to re-consider particular points and even though I am generally keen to get on to the next part of the course, I prefer to consolidate my learning before moving on.

The main learning from this assignment and feedback is the importance of being clear about what exactly I am trying to say through my photographs, and I feel that I have been guilty in part, of making my images ‘fit’. This learning seems quite pivotal (my own decisive moment?) and I hope that in future projects I can be clearer about my intended message.

In the ‘context’ part of my feedback, my tutor sent me some bedtime reading! ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ by Roland Barthes.  I have considered this in a separate post (see link below)

He also suggested I look at the work of Melanie Friend as an example of the use of text as anchorage. Please see the link to a separate post, below.

He advised that texts traditionally caption images, and are used in journalism and documentary. In contemporary art, texts and images are ‘put together in unexpected ways to reveal something new about each’. I was reminded firstly of Sharon Boothroyd’s use of text linked to her images in her exhibition and I looked again at my earlier post: They all say please

On viewing Boothroyd’s images, I initially constructed a meaning and I can see that this was based on my life and experiences, and then, I looked at the texts. It is interesting that the texts created different meanings of the images and made me look at them in a different way. I commented that there must be as many interpretations of an image as there are viewers of it. However, the text encourages a specific interpretation of the photograph.

Following my consideration of Melanie Friend, I was reminded also of Les Monaghan’s work The Desire Project  in which he presented images of ‘ordinary’ people, captioned by their response to his questions about their dreams. In terms of my own assignment 3 images, which used text to provide a linking theme and context, I can see that my texts also ‘direct’ the viewer to interpret the image. Less obvious in a landscape, yes, but important to my work as a signifier for the viewer, suggesting a particular way of looking at the images.

In view of my failure to fulfil the decisive moment brief in all but (a possible) two of my images, I spent some time in going over what exactly is meant by the decisive moment. I came across a site (Suler, see below)  that really helped to clarify things for me. I particularly found the analysis of Cartier-Bresson’s image Behind Gare St Lazare (1932)    very useful. I intend to consider this further in my hard-copy log, but I was particularly interested in the two very different responses to the picture: first, a quick response – ‘a man jumping over a puddle, it looks depressing’, and second: a very full and thought provoking description of the endless possibilities that can be read into the image. I struggle here to separate the decisive moment from story telling however. My tutor explained that the decisive moment is a visual climax, and I can see how Bresson’s image is exactly that, but it also seems to tell or suggest a story. Suler’s second example, the image of the couple embracing is regarded as a successful decisive moment because of it’s implied narrative – why isn’t he holding her with both arms etc?

This assignment and my tutor’s feedback has given me much to think about and will continue to do so as I progress through the course.


Please see my posts:

Melanie Friend

Research Point – Zouhar Ghazall – revisited

Roland Barthes – Rhetoric of the image


Friend M (2001) No Place Like Home. Photographs. At: http://www.melaniefriend.com/noplacelikehome-images/  (Accessed 23 December 2016)

Suler J. The Psychology of the Decisive Moment At: http://www.truecenterpublishing.com/photopsy/decisive_moment.htm (Accessed 25 December 2016)

Post Script:

Having had time to think about my work and my tutor’s comments, I decided that I wanted to attempt this assignment again. Please see my post:  EYV Assignment 3 Re-worked



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