The little weekly group of photographers I shoot with decided to try to explore the 'decisive moment' over the weekend. The aim was to try to emulate the style of Henri Cartier-Bresson. One image that was discussed was Heyres. That's the town the picture of the cyclist, above, was taken. I looked at this and pondered if Bresson found this location then waited for a while to see what might come by. Was this purely a reaction shot to the cyclist, or had he considered the great framing opportunities of the staircase and road, then waited for the right moment for that scene? I'm sure talent and luck play a large part, but as ever I think that luck favours the prepared.
I did a bit of searching to see what I could find out about this picture and ended up listening to a Jeff Curto podcast on the image. Jeff has a similar view to mine, maybe there are other negatives, with a couple strolling by, or someone pushing a handcart that we've never seen. The editing of these decisive moments is important too.
Over the years I've felt that I've recognised great scenes, or stages, with the potential to have a moment that brings them to life, but maybe haven't invested the time or developed the patience to wait on the real drama to unfold. Along similar lines, I've started putting more people into those scenes that I've recognised, trying to manufacture the potential that I could see, with greater or less success. In either case, it is something alive or changing that animates the scene - a person, an animal, something that gives a sense of the passage of time. More than anything perhaps that's what makes the moment decisive - it has to have the potential to be just a moment, there and gone, rather than a static scene. Certainly the decisive moment is that zenith of the action when everything comes together, but for so long, my images didn't even have that potential.
Also while looking for more info on the image at the start of this post, I found this flickr discussion. Apparently context matters. Not sure if that is a damning indictment on the state of photography just now and the level of online discourse, or a telling insight into the rose-coloured glasses that we view the work of the greats of photography.