The Decisive Moment

Henri Cartier-Bresson was born in 1908 in France and died in 2004. He originally trained as an artist but soon picked up a camera and in 1931 began a career in photography. His photographs became some of the most memorable and lasting photos of the 20th century.

Often described as a photojournalist, Cartier-Bresson said that his training was in surrealism but that if he had said he was a surrealist he would never have received any work! Despite this, he still managed to photograph many of the key national and international events during his lifetime.

Cartier-Bresson developed the concept of ‘the decisive moment’. That moment in time where structure, architecture and people align perfectly through a camera lens and where just before is too early and just after is too late. His photos, taken on a 33mm camera are un-cropped and un-manipulated and are known for being precisely composed, with strong geometric shapes. Cartier-Bresson himself says, in the film below, “Life is once, forever.”

He also recommends that you don’t ‘overshoot’. Taking too many pictures could mean that you miss the decisive moment because it is in between the photos that you have taken. Catching that decisive moment takes time, patience and some anxiety. You also need to blend in. Cartier-Bresson was known to tape over the metal parts of his camera in order to prevent it reflecting or shining and drawing attention to himself.

 

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