Assignment 3 – The (In)decisive Moment (Reworked)

The Brief

Create a set of between six and ten finished images on the theme of the decisive moment. You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the ‘decisive moment’ or you may choose to question or invert the concept by presenting a series of ‘indecisive’ moments. Your aim isn’t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it’s a location, event or particular period of time.

Include a written introduction to your work of between 500 and 1000 words outlining your initial ideas and subsequent development. You’ll need to contextualize your response with photographers that you’ve looked at, and don’t forget to reference the reading that you’ve done.

Response

Overall I was happy with the final outcome of this brief, but there were a couple of issues I wanted to resolve in the way the brief was communicated based on the feedback from my tutor. First of all, it was felt that the research was lacking even though during our discussion it became clear that I had covered a number of research pieces in answering the brief. That said the extent of this was not immediately visible in the final presentation. So in reworking this assignment I will try to give context regarding what influences directed this assignment. The second point I am going to address is the final presentation of the images as it was felt that they were a little too dark.

Initially my thoughts looked at this from a landscape photography perspective, which is my comfort zone and while it is creative, it is in many cases a repeatable event. That said I could use a longer exposure to create something different. The brief does lend itself to the street photography point of view and my own anxiety with this is something I will need to tackle in time. Sadly at the time of writing we are  in lock down which does limit my options and the subject of queuing and messages on walls seems a bit cliché even in these early stages. So I am leaning more towards the indecisive moment and the use of longer or multiple exposures to illustrate a theme.

Research

So what is the Decisive moment? In my opinion the decisive moment is many things, but most importantly it is instant the work of a moment frozen by the shutter. it can be creative in composition and how elements line up in the finished exposure and such examples are easily found in the work of Henri Cartier Bresson which include the leaping man and another of the cyclist in Hyeres. It can be a moment of historical importance, events that are unlikely to repeat such as the independence in India, the end of the second world war, the fall of the Berlin wall. Bresson dealt with historical themes in his work that were equally decisive, hence why he is considered the forerunner of photojournalism. You can read more on  the decisive moment here

“For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously

Joel Meyerowitz is another fine example of a photographer who managed to capture the decisive moments in his career and as an early adopter of colour film he has compiled some striking images in street photography over the years, not least of which was his photo documentary work of the clearing of the site where the World Trade Centre stood until 2001 which again epitomizes  the decisive moment from a historical perspective.

In terms of the direct influences on this assignment there were a number of practitioners that influenced the direction I took. As I wanted to invert the concept I decided to have a look at the work of Daido Moriyama and the Provoke movement. Provoke really did break the academic norms of photography with its edgy high contrast images with little or no regard for composition or context yet it do go own to influence photography for a great many years after its initial release. What Daido Moriyama achieved with provoke and throughout his career, I am reminded of some of the use of high contrast colours and monochrome in films like Sin City and Kill Bill. This Image below of a stray dog encapsulates the essence of the final process I wanted the images to portray.

I was also very much drawn to the creative works of Michael Weseley and his amazing work with long exposures. Looking at his work documenting the building work at the Museum of Modern Art online and through his book “Open Shutter”, which almost like being able to see all the layers of an onion in one shot and whilst his works were clearly not decisive  they did very much serve as a record of time. That stand out influence for me had to be the work of Francesca Woodman, more specifically the photographs from her series Space², Providence, Rhode Island 1976. Her use of movement, but there is also a balance between herself and the geometric properties around her, often using herself as the subject to create poetic use of composition an movement within an image and it is these two that serve as my inspiration for this assignment. Below is one example of her work, but you can view more on Francesca Woodman here

Space²

In comparing Woodmans  work to that of Weseleys, there are some clear distinctions to be made. Weseley presents changes in the landscape in response to an event such as building works, the life cycle of cut flowers or the response to a televised football tournament. Woodman on the other hand I find presents images that balance the image as a whole

 

Technical and Creative Approach

So I became struck by the idea having spent some time at home, what it is we do when faced with time on our hands and how we maintain a sense of normality when the world around us has changed. As such I started to experiment with longer exposures around the home as we went about our normal daily routines. The camera was set to Shutter Priority Mode with an ISO of 100 and a varying number of shutter speeds. In the spirit of Woodmans and Weseleys work I have chosen to stick with the theme of black and white photography as I wanted a consistent feel across all of the images. I have used lightroom to add some sharpness and a tone curve to the final images.

Contact Sheets

There are a number of contact sheets in this brief:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Shots

  • Aperture: ƒ/14
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 25 May, 2020
  • Focal length: 70mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/2s

  • Aperture: ƒ/7.1
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 22 March, 2020
  • Focal length: 38mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 2s

  • Aperture: ƒ/20
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 22 March, 2020
  • Focal length: 24mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 2s

 

  • Aperture: ƒ/4
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 22 March, 2020
  • Focal length: 24mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/2s

 

  • Aperture: ƒ/11
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 21 March, 2020
  • Focal length: 24mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 2s

  • Aperture: ƒ/4
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 22 March, 2020
  • Focal length: 24mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 2s

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 22 March, 2020
  • Focal length: 70mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1.3s

s

  • Aperture: ƒ/9
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 4 March, 2020
  • Focal length: 24mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 10s

  • Aperture: ƒ/16
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Taken: 21 March, 2020
  • Focal length: 24mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 2s

Reflection

This was a difficult assignment in all honesty and the current situation we are in right now had not made the task any easier. Ideally I would have rather gone and photographed seascapes or waterfalls to express the movement as an indecisive moment and at least a more creative one at that. That said I am reasonably happy with the way I had engaged with the brief and the circumstances did force me to rethink the brief entirely from what I had originally intended. Time has been a factor with this as well and I would have preferred to have had more time to work on this assignment especially as I started to engage more with the revised approach. My favourite image has to be with the making of the bed, which was a challenging shot to get right between getting the right shutter speed and the movement of the subject and given more time I would have hoped to have achieved the same level of quality throughout all of the shots, as there were varying degrees of trial and error. I would have liked to have worked with some really long exposures capturing changes in environments around the home over a number of days, but this was beyond the physical capabilities of the equipment I had at the time without investing in a continuous power source and a number of ND filters.

References

Foundation HCB, Henri Cartier Bresson. online]. Available at: https://www.henricartierbresson.org/en/hcb/ [Accessed 24th May 2020]

Magnum Photos, Henri Cartier Bresson. [online]. Available at: https://www.magnumphotos.com/theory-and-practice/henri-cartier-bresson-principles-practice/ [Accessed 6th June 2020]

Azure Bumble, Michael Weseley. [online]. Available at: https://azurebumble.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/michael-wesely-long-exposures-photography/ [Accessed 2nd June 2020]

Joel Meyerowitz.com, Joel Meyerowitz. [online]. Available at https://www.joelmeyerowitz.com/ [Accessed 31st May 2020]

The Guardian, Joel Meyerowitz. [online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/nov/11/joel-meyerowitz-taking-my-time-interview [Accessed 2nd June 2020]

Artnet, Daido Moriyama. [online]. Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/daido-moriyama/stray-dog-misawa-3bKwiI-ujUXg_ubQ6BW6Pg2 [Accessed 1st June 2020]

Artnet, Francesca Woodman. [online]. Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/francesca-woodman/ [Accessed 1st June 2020]

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