For my first “Photo of the Week” post, I had to go here. This is the image that sparked my photography obsession. To this day, my heart races when I see this image from Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “The Decisive Moment” collection. At first sight, I wondered how many times the poor man had to jump into the water for the photographer to get the image he wanted….but upon further investigation, I learned that it wasn’t staged. WHAT!? No stylist? No high speed, five-frames-per-second camera? What on earth….Keep reading to find out how he did it…The entire “The Decisive Moment” collection is filled with images based on Bresson’s once-you-miss-the-moment-it’s-gone-forever philosophy. None of his images were ever “set up;” he was where he was and released the shutter at precisely the correct moment. He said of this image:
“There was a plank fence around some repairs behind the Gare Saint-Lazare train station. I happened to be peeking through a gap in the fence with my camera at the moment the man jumped.”
Some critics have called his photography a collection of snapshots, but when you look through the volume of his work and discover his mastery of composition (he never cropped in on a negative), available light, and his camera, on top of his ability to capture the human spirit, you start to see something awe-inspiring. He often said being a photographer is similar to being a hunter and recalled the excitement of receiving his first camera: “I prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung-up and ready to pounce, determined to ‘trap’ life – to preserve life in the act of living.”
As the “father of photojournalism and street photography” you see his influence all around us in newspapers, magazines, and more recently, in wedding photos– as photographers move away from posed portraits and towards capturing a more candid “in-the-moment” style.
A few years ago, one of Henri’s photos was submitted anonymously to a Flickr pool. It is quite entertaining to read the comments. You can learn more about my favorite photographer here or explore his images here.