The Decisive Moment

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A picture is like a Chekov story. A Maupassant story. There’s a whole world in it.
Henri Cartier-Bresson

HCB / Photo. Lens Magazine

I was a young teenager when I first came across Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photos. And not long after learned a little about the concept of  ‘The Decisive Moment’, the element that makes his photographs – and those of others working in the genre – so arresting.

I have watched this wonderful movie of Cartier-Bresson’s work many times. One in which his own narration conveys so much about his unique personality and provides insights into his philosophy and how he works.

Years later I discovered Vancouver’s own Fred Hertzog, and since then have often been arrested by spontaneous sightings of street photography in magazines, books and galleries.

Much as I enjoy taking pictures on my travels, they are more likely to be shots of familiar places and images that convey something of the spirit of each destination, rather than candid shots of people and places who live their lives on the streets of Guanajuato, San Francisco, Avignon, Jaipur, Fez, Winchester, Rome…

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Chinatown Lonely (LP)

Just once in a while, such as on a photo outing to Chinatown with a friend a few years ago when I went out looking for such images, I am gratified to find a few that fits the criteria of street photography.

For the past few months I have been preoccupied by the genre, reading biographies and manuals, and scrutinizing images by contemporary street photographers. I recently signed up for a weekend workshop in August with Vancouver photographer Ian Macdonald, and every day pore over new postings at the Street Photography in the World Facebook Page, trying to figure which images I find most compelling, and how the photographer has achieved the effect.

None of that has much to do with my previous preoccupation with writing. But with this new perspective, I have now unearthed a teen novel I began a few years ago called Shoot (as in cameras rather than firearms). And I have started a photo/essay project called 66. This will be 66 images – some of my own, others I run across, with some sort of accompanying text. Not for the purposes of publication. But for my own interest as I undertake this new journey of discovery.

(’66’? I am 66. And if I want to keep going – both with photography and the life itself – I can easily rebrand the project as ’99’.)

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