“You must milk the cow a great deal, to get enough milk, to make a little bit of cheese”
There come certain moments in our lives when any number of forces (both those we can control and those we can’t) merge together. Everything comes together as if fate had planned it that way. To simplify this in a phrase; being in the right place at the right time.
The French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson describes this sensation in his work as being “The Decisive Moment”. A point in time and space when those forces (people, buildings, autos, animals, shapes, forms, weather etc.) arrange themselves in front of his camera to present a complete statement, both visually and emotionally. Everything is revealed with perfect clarity.
But this is a very quick and fleeting moment. The power created by all these forces dissolves as quickly as it arises. Cartier-Bresson sees it as his responsibility as a photographer to be aware of such moments and to photograph them at precisely “the decisive moment”.
Your assignment, shoot at least 50 photos of these decisive moments you find in your world. These are best found outdoors and in situations where there are lots of people around. Use ISO 400 speed setting and try to use higher shutter speeds if your subjects are moving, around 250-500 of a second.
Carry your camera in the ready mode, that is pre-focused and the exposure controls adjusted for the lighting situation you are in. Try concentrating on the three basic elements (time, space, and objects in space, like people). Observe their interaction. You skill will increase with practice and timing is everything.
Turn in a minimum of one print that best presents the idea of the decisive moment. The print may be of any size.
For more information, check out the works of Cartier-Bresson in the art and architecture library and the works of Elliot Erwitt and Gray Winnogrand two other photographers who deal with these elements.