Category Archives: ASSIGNMENT 3

Assignment 3 -The Decisive Moment

‘Just be receptive and it happens’ (Cartier-Bresson – 2001)  

In attempting to understand or define the essence of ‘The decisive moment’ I initially got lost in my own literal translation of the term. This greatly limited both my appreciation and understanding of the potential involved in exploring this concept.

It was watching the movie ‘L’amour tout Court’ that helped me to view this form of photography in a more investigative way. The quote from Henri above became my mantra as I hit the streets of Brixton.


Picture 1 – The Preacher

Brixton is one of the few places left in London where the term ‘Freedom of Speech’ is apparent, loud and clear every day. From Christianity, Islam, Socialism, Cultural freedom – the list goes on and on. I love the rhythm and noise and energy that all these passionate voices produce. I had already decided I wanted to try and capture part of this essence. My shots included and loud interaction between a man holding a large wooden cross and a passer-by questioning his faith, a quiet whisper between a speaker and an elderly woman as he held her hand and talked about Jesus, and the socialist worker news stand. My final choice was of this individual, raising his hand as he quoted passages from the Bible. I like the strength of his stance and his lack of self-consciousness as no one appears to hear his words or heed his presence.

Picture 2 – Running for the Bus

Sometimes Brixton appears very red. Particularly when the rain falls. The endless procession of buses on the main street reflects brightly in the puddles and wet pavements. It is a busy, colourful zone. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the two moving elements in the shot – The boy heading in one direction – the bus in the other. There is also something in the lines of reflection of the bus colours that seem to help freeze the movement of the runner.

Picture 3 – David Bowie Mural

This has become quite a Mecca for Bowie fans from all over the world in the last twelve months. There is an ever-changing array of flowers and gifts at the foot of the image and the words of adoration scrawled on the wall around his image continues to grow. This shot was taken on Bowie’s birthday. The mural is on the side of a department store. The area is very busy and to locals is an area often walked through. The moment I attempted to capture was the excitement of the Bowie fans visiting their hero, in contrast with the locals wandering past on their daily route. I feel I have captured something in their faces, and I enjoy the irony of shooting people taking a selfie. I would have been happier with composition that showed more of the mural and street life around it.


Picture 4 – Electric Avenue

A month or two ago Eddy Grant visited Brixton to ‘unveil’ a new ‘Electric Avenue’ neon sign on the street that he made famous in song. Opposite this sign is another electric installation that I hadn’t actually noticed before my street wandering for this project. This is a wall with different phrases that appear not to link. Then at different times, groups of these sentences light up to create a tiny narrative. I watched the wall for a while. There was a man below the wall. He seemed to be preparing himself. Either to meet with a friend, or to head to work. He made a few calls and drank his coffee. I was really enjoying watching the stories unfold on the wall. I took a few shots. The text matches the picture well I think. But any story could be created here. I like its potential. I decided to use black and white to enhance the highlighted text. It also helps to define the geometry within the shot – the brick wall lines, the crates and rubbish trolley, the uniform lines of text.

Picture 5 – Sign of the Times

The public telephone boxes directly outside the Carphone Warehouse really do seem to be refusing to give in to progress. Even the graffiti seems half hearted compared to the rest of Brixton. But again the vibrant red shouts out to the street. I enjoy the symmetry of the shot and the dissection of the street by these archaic services. If only the two pedestrians had been on their phones at the time!

Picture 6 – Brixton Arches

The architecture in Brixton offers some diverse contexts in framing the human element. My final shot was just randomly taken because I like the way the light affects the structure of these arches. I took a few shots here, but this was the only one including people. I like the way the arches have framed the two adults and two children. The similarity between the two halves of the shots is also satisfying. There is a feeling of determination in the step of the two children and the two adults on the left of the image – this is only broken by the one adult turning to his child. This communication within the scene captures a single moment for me.

So in attempting to ‘be receptive and see what happens’ have I addressed and understood the philosophy behind The Decisive Moment?

I think it is worth examining the relevance of this philosophy with today’s photography. Zouhair Ghazzal suggests that despite the substance and endurance of the work of Cartier Bresson, the Decisive moment has become to some extent a cliché. Zouhair discusses the anecdotal element conveyed through Cartier Bresson’s wotk through the gestures and interplay of his subject matter.

‘An image does not narrate: it rather creates an unbridgeable abyss between itself-as-frame and the rest of the unframed world—comparable to Sartre’s “existential hole,” which is only conscious of the absurdity of its own existence, or, more commonly, to a one-night-stand, as something that is given, but with no connection to anything else—in time and space, which pushes a hapless and confused imagination for a narrative. In sum, in that endless time-space flux, the decisive moment operates an all too sudden cut that is the most meaningful of all.’ (2004 zouhair ghazzal)

For me there should be an element of anecdote communicated through the image. But the art in the image should leave many levels of interpretation to the viewer.