A snippet from John G. Morris speech 1957 'What makes a good freelancer'...
"The photographer's Eye. The eye. Let me see a photographer's contact sheets and I can tell you whether he's got an eye. It's a pleasure to look at the contact sheets of Cartier-Bresson, especially so because Henri doesn't like to lend them out! But, they show his search, his probing of subject matter. It's fascinating to see the way he works."
The way he's talking makes him seem like a pretty humble dude. His stuff is generally great in my opinion.
I agree completely.
Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson
Here's the final paragraph from the text of the Decisive Moment, prompted by a member accepting my above offer to share it.
To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.
I believe that, through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us which can mold us, but which can also be affected by us. A balance must be established between these two worlds - the one inside us and the one outside us. As the result of a constant reciprocal process, both these worlds come to form a single one. And it is this world that we must communicate.
But this takes care only of the content of the picture. For me, content cannot be separated from form. By form, I mean a rigorous organization of the interplay of surfaces, lines, and values. It is in this organization alone that our conceptions and emotions become concrete and communicable. In photography, visual organization can stem only from a developed instinct.
Whatever your take on Mssr. H, I think this deserves its due as a simple & eloquent way of defining that certain phenomenon that takes place when you manage to snap something incredibly special & fleeting.
In the end this is just a matter of taste. Many, many people like HCB's photographs. As long as they like them honestly (meaning they simply enjoy looking at them, rather than being influenced by scholars and such), that's good enough to make him a great photographer.
Personally, I never much cared for his work. I also hate the idea of a fleeting "decisive moment", if there is such a thing. In my mind, the decisive moment can encompass any amount of time, but that's because my photographic interests are totally different than those of HCB. I'm primarily interested in photographs that give a real descriptive sense of place in time, not "temporal instants". It's why I am stopped dead in my tracks and filled with interest (similar to the experience Thomas described) when I look over and over again at photographs by George Tice, Stephen Shore etc. Most people think I'm nuts when I mention Shore, but that's OK.
Whatever you honestly enjoy is all that counts. Is HCB "overrated"? I honestly can't answer that. It is very difficult to define "overrated". There are so many different criteria one can use. What I would say, is that his work seems to be standing the test of time, which is something.
I'm struggling a little with Holmburgers's "undeniable masterpiece" comment. Whether it be music, painting, etc etc, I'm always on the fence as to whether there is such a thing as an undeniable materpiece.
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Ok, ok... I'll confess that the phrase "undeniable masterpieces" is an overstatement. That phrase of mine is getting a lot of mileage being used against me, but I'm really not the poster child for HCB worship, not by a longshot. I do however, have a propensity for superlatives!
However... I certainly support the existant of a "decisive moment". I mean, that's what reportage photography is all about; photojournalism at its core. Haven't you ever seen a vision go through your eyes and wished that insted of through your eyes that it had been through your camera? That's a decisive moment, images à la sauvette. Imagine all the pictures that capture something like this. Right now, the photograph of Bobby Kennedy on the ground is coming to mind.
It's like music; you'd hate to have the albums of only 1 band. Instead you have a collection of many bands & many records; at different times you will listen to them all, taking the best out of each one and using it at the right time in your day, week, life. The same is true for photographers. There are different genres to choose from, different styles & epochs, and a photographer is nothing more than a band that you should enjoy for what they've done. Henri Cartier-Bresson is not the only band, and in fact, I'd prefer to see him as an opener.. I've got other headliners in mind. But I'll clap hardily after his set and take what I can from it.
I guess I can accept certain decisive moments in the context of news photography. I'm thinking more of the other type of HCB image often held up as an example of the decisive moment - kids playing in ruins, and other stuff like that. It is in that context I feel the concept of a single decisive moment is absurd. If HCB had shown up 5 minutes later, he probably would have found another decisive moment. And maybe one second before his decisive shot, there was a better decisive moment. Who knows.
Is there an indecisive moment in photography?
I mean, all art criticism has its theses and counter-theses.
P.S. Anne Geddes doesn't count
Cartier-Bresson might have been able to record a similarly successful image as the one linked here. But he didn't. He recorded this one, and that was HIS decisive moment.
Nobody can be everywhere watching everything at once, and cherry pick moments. You have to be there, and he was there, and to me what he got is arresting.
Explore your empathy for a moment. Put yourself in the shoes of the woman captured so well among the priests. What is she doing? Why is she there? How does it feel to her to be in that place at that moment? What are the priests discussing? Look at her facial expression, and compare it to theirs. Aren't those questions you ask yourself when you see a frame like this?
Rome, Italy, 1959
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
I think this could be considered an indecisive moment... http://stage.itp.nyu.edu/history/tim...es/marey12.jpg
I like Thomas' take on it... I think another photographer that captured truly decisive moments was W. Eugene Smith.