EYV Assignment 3 ‘The Decisive Moment’ Re-worked

I decided that I would like to try to improve my initial submission of Assignment 3 since my tutor felt that I had not fully addressed the brief.

In my post: The Decisive Moment – Where I Stand , although I showed an admiration for the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, I expressed the view that I agreed with Zouhair Ghazzal in finding some decisive moment images a bit clichéd and comic. I have also, in this blog, commented on my reluctance to take photographs of people without their consent.

However, I decided to try to address my reluctance with the comic and with street photography in general and try to present a response to this brief that was out of my comfort zone and in direct contrast with my original response, embracing the decisive moment tradition within street photography.

My images were taken in Barnsley town centre and I use the location as the theme to give cohesion to my set of images. I have used images taken indoors and alternated them with outdoor images for variety and to give a broader view of the town.

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Image 1

Many people seemed to stop to watch the TV screen in this shop window. In this image, the screen cartoon character and the viewer, appear to be looking at each other, perhaps smiling at each other, creating an opportunity for a comic decisive moment.

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Image 2

Here, I felt that the composition worked because the vertical lines of the black lamp-post and the black figure give balance and contrast to the picture, with the mirroring of the windows and reflections, and the second lamp-post adding further to the symmetry. The leading lines created by the buildings and path, and by the two lamp-posts,  take the eye to the small figure situated centrally at the ‘back’ of the image. This figure acts as a mirror to the main subject, and perhaps we wonder where they are going.

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Image 3

This image reminded me Wazari Wazir’s image of  The King of Malaysia and Sultan of Selangor , that I came across while researching the decisive moment. In Wazir’s image, his two subjects are simultaneously raising their hands to create a mirroring effect. I liked how, in my image, the two women are mirroring each other and the viewer is drawn to the almost identical pony-tails. Also, the central figure in the background is himself symmetrical having both hands on his hips. Wazir says, of his decisive moment image:

‘Personally I think it is a photograph taken at its peak moment or when the moment is at its best. Let say if I just take this photograph of The King and The Sultan of Selangor walking towards the stair without that hands gestures, it is still a moment but not at it’s best and I personally think that when they show a hand gesture like what you have seen here make it the best moment and personally I think this is a “decisive moment”. (Wazir 2011)
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Image 4

I felt that this image worked as a decisive moment image because of the symmetry and mirroring within the composition. The straight lines of the buildings to the left and right direct the gaze towards the two central figures positioned at the meeting of sky and water, just within the gaps created by the street fixtures, and walking towards each other. The squares of the pavement at the front of the image reflect the squares of the building at the back and the reflection of the sky in the wet path forms a horizontal mirroring.

Cartier-Bresson said: ‘We often hear of camera angles .. but the only legitimate angles that exist are those of the geometry of the composition’. (Suler)
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Image 5

Here, my attention was drawn firstly to the humour in that the blue baby figure appears to be part of the queue to the pay station. However, I think this image works as a decisive moment because of the mirroring of the figure’s face with the face of the man on the left, and the balance and symmetry of the man with the woman on the right, both walking away and out of the picture, both looking downwards, intent and determination on their faces. The blue baby seems to be looking on and watching the man as he walks away.

Technical approach.

I set my camera to shutter priority and selected a shutter speed fast enough to allow me to hand hold my camera so that I could respond to situations quickly and I used a focal length of between 24(16)mm and 45(30)mm. I lightened some of my images post capture, added a bit of sharpening, straightened where necessary, and adjusted the white balance to better reflect the scene as I saw it. I used continuous drive. I don’t like the term ‘spray and pray’ but continuous shooting allowed me to choose the best image of a number of similar images captured at short intervals.

What worked well

I am pleased that I re-worked this assignment. Although my previous attempt took many hours of planning and thought, and I was initially disappointed that after so much effort, my work hadn’t fully addressed the brief (the course notes do warn about this!),  I am grateful for the learning and the opportunity to try again. I hope my images show my willingness to step outside my comfort zone with street photography (I felt a particular sense of achievement with the indoor images since I was close to my subjects and conspicuous) and an understanding of composition, geometry and gestures within decisive moment photography.

What could be improved

Of course my images could be improved. It would have been great if, in image 1, for example, my cartoon character could have been pointing at his viewer perhaps. My human subjects in images 2 and 4, although they are in the ‘right place at the right time’ do not show ‘movement and gestures’, but I hope they show an awareness of composition in decisive moment photography and the consideration of geometry in the use of lines and symmetry. My choice to use both indoor and outdoor images may make more sense to me than to the viewer and I am concerned therefore that the set could look a bit random and be less cohesive than I hoped.

Bresson’s images are mono rather than colour and I considered whether ‘black and white’ may have emphasised the composition of my outdoor images. I de-saturated my pictures and, while I think the bottom one of these two images works quite well, I think the use of colour in the first one actually gives more interest and clarity.

 

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Below is an image that I liked and considered but ultimately rejected:

This image may have been a better choice. However, I rejected it because of a natural avoidance of taking pictures of people, and because the pony-tails don’t work quite so well. Keen to challenge myself, I show this image here since the inclusion of the subjects’ faces side-on adds something to the image in terms of symmetry. There is also more of a story, or ‘suspense’ since we can only speculate as to what has caught the attention of the woman on the right and who the woman in red is talking to. The deliberation of the man over his choice of battery further enhances the moment.

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Overall, I am pleased with this second attempt at the decisive moment assignment. I intend to continue to observe potential decisive moment opportunities and to practice further.

Bibliography

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

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