Research 3 – Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Brief

Watch the Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary ‘L’amour de court’ (‘Just plain love’, 2001) available in five parts on YouTube:

Please note, Parts 4 and 5 of the Henri Cartier Bresson video ‘L’amour tout court’ have had the audio muted by YouTube owing to copyright. However, the subtitles are still included in the video which does allow the conversation to be followed without audio.

‘L’amour tout court’ is also available on Vimeo at (accessed 26/09/2016).

Write a personal response to the film in the contextual section of your learning log, taking care to reference properly any quotations you use (300–500 words).

• Whenever you read or watch something, get into the habit of putting anything you take directly from the source in quotation marks and note down full bibliographic details. If you do this, you won’t have to spend ages hunting for half-remembered references later – and you won’t inadvertently plagiarise someone else’s work. Always use Harvard referencing; print out the study guide on the student website and keep this to hand.

• Be very careful about what you put on your blog. Take a moment now to read what the OCA learning blog study guide says about copyright law and fair use or fair dealing.


Henri Cartier -Bressons view seem to indicate that the decisive moment is a somewhat geometrically creative moment that happens as a result of luck, opportunity, but also being able to recognise the moment when to take a creative exposure. You could infer from Bressons response is that you could learn all of the technical aspects of say the camera or a pencil or paintbrush and still not be able to create an an accurate depiction of something unique and decisive, some may not even recognise when those moments occur. The end result should require no explanation and should be clear in what it represents.

Graham response in my view is quite different in that every moment is a decisive one and allows for the viewer to make there own minds up about what it is they are seeing. It is a procession of daily life, anonymous, every moment played out in a unique unassuming way. The photographers approach is indecisive as there is no cohesive message, its not opportunistic and not what you would call a creative moment being captured. Its a narrative. However if we compare it as a snapshot of the time itself then perhaps that same series by Graham would look quite different say back in the 1950’s as opposed to now and say the present would be very different again in another 60 years, so you could interpret it as a story of our time.

Ghazzals approach to this subject is rather different in that he cites the Decisive moment as a cliché rather than a reality and whilst it has had an profound affect on photojournalism, not every creative photographer relies on the decisive moment. Ghazzal cites Walker Evans as a very prominent and influential photographer who introduced series photography through some of his works, yet had very few decisive moments. Which raises the question around the ability to recognise a decisive moment is not always necessary in becoming a creative photographer. Ghazzal also cites that architecture in America leaves very little room for decisive moments and this I would have to disagree with to a certain degree as this infers that there is no change, where in fact there is and by that notion the world as we see it today, will be very different tomorrow and with that each piece of worka photographer does could be considered decisive in its own right albeit not very creative.

My own view is a simple one and one I am often reminded of when I travel and I do not have my camera with me, you have to be ready for it, its almost like the words are ringing in my ears yelling “Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail” and it is so true. Some days I drive home and I see beautifully silhouetted trees against a pale pink sky and think damn why didn’t I bring my camera. So I go back to what I was saying, you have to be ready for the moment, recognise it and act on it. The other thing I recognise from this process is that it is also personal from the viewpoint of the photographer.


(1) Colin Pantall. The Present. [online]. Available at:   [Accessed 19th January 2020]

(2) Colin Pantall. The Present. [online]. Available at:  [Accessed 23rd January 2020]

(3) Zouhair Ghazzal. the indecisiveness of the decisive moment. [online]. Available at:  [Accessed 23rd January 2020]


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