Exercise 5.3

Exercise 5.3

The Task

Look again at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in Part Three.  (if you can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can see an original print on permanent display in the Photographer’s Gallery.)  Is there a single element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns again and again?  What information does this ‘point’ contain?

Include a short response to Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in your learning log.  You can be as imaginative as you like.  In order to contextualize your discussion you might want to include one or two or your own shots, and you may wish to refer to Rinko Kawauchi’s photography mentioned above or the Theatres series by Hiroshi Sugimotor discussed in Part Three.  Write about 150-300 words.

To see the image please follow this link http://time.com/3590594/the-return-of-henri-cartier-bressons-decisive-moment/ (accessed on 9/7/2017).

The obvious ‘point’ in this image is the man jumping over the puddle of water.  However, if we think of the image in Terry Barrett’s terms of contexts there is a lot more in the photo than just the man and the ‘decisive moment’.  Another point is the ladder which leads the eye to the man but for me the shadowy figures in the backgrounds are also ‘points’ of interest.   What are these people thinking as they see the man in a hurry – are they wondering if he will trip and fall (the surrounding components to the integral point of the image).

While one cannot tell from looking at the image how it is made or the original context we know from Henri-Cartier Bresson himself that it was a photo taken through the railings and that in fact he did not see the man at the point he took the image.  It is likely he was thinking of form and geometry so perhaps for him the ladder leading into the man may have been equally important.  It is in hindsight that this image became known as ‘The Decisive Moment’.

I enjoy nature photography and over the summer have spent many enjoyable moments watching various insects in the pond – I believe Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment can be equally applicable to some of the actions taken by insects in the course of their daily lives:

This image captures the point at which two damsel flies are mating – interesting how they form a heart shape which is a ‘point’ of interest.  In terms of the external context – it is the pond while the original context would be the equipment used including a macro lens.

This second ‘decisive moment’ shows a spider attacking a fly caught in it’s web.  The external and original contexts are the same as for the damsel flies above.

And last but not least this image captures a bee in flight with the same external and original contexts.  The flower also provides a ‘point’ of interest and framing for the image.


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