Assignment 3: The Decisive Moment – Exercise 3.2 (part 1)


Having done a fair amount of research into the “pioneers” of street photography for this assignment I wanted to get a feel for contemporary photographers and how they approached their craft.  I was blown away by the quality, style and artistry of modern photographers.  It isn’t hard to see the influences of the “Old Masters” such as Cartier-Bresson, Capa and Adams to name but a few, of the Decisive Moment in many modern photographers work.  For me the interesting thing is how they then use it to develop their own unique style

Thomas Leuthard

Thomas Leuthard  particularly caught my attention in the way that he captures the essence of ordinary life and the candidness of his work.

What is street photography? It’s not that simple to explain. Sure you can go to Wikipedia and find an answer there. In my words, it’s the documentation of life in public in a candid way. Nothing is setup, nobody was asked and it will never be the same again. It’s like holding up a mirror to society. It’s a single human moment captured in a decisive moment.

Leuthard T. (2011)

Valerie Jardin

I particularly liked the way Jardin  uses structures as well as reflections and candid shots for context.  Like Leuthard she also writes and shares her expertise freely.  Her work helped me make a final decision between colour or black and white.

When is color preferred? The color can be an integral part of the story, which also means that a black and white conversation would take away the most important component of the image, and it would not make any sense. Jardin V,

Diane Arbus

I made no reference to Arbus in my last assignment and having  long admired her work of and her ability to capture the most unusual and interesting aspects of life I felt she deserved a mention.    An on-line biography of her quotes:

“ During her wanderings around New York City, Arbus began to pursue taking photographs of people she found.” Editors

Whilst her photography does not quite fit with the received definition of the decisive moment as she quite obviously sought out her “subjects”  As Eric Kim  points out, we can learn a lot from her about street photography.

Arbus was not always comfortable about the type of people she photographed earning the question by some of whether she (or we who view her work) was voyeuristic or not.   That said there is no doubt that some of the expressions tell such as story that they may well be classified as a decisive moment.

Lee Friedlander

As part of feedback from assignment 2 I researched Lee Friedlander to help me understand composition and how he used reflections and objects to dissect the frame to lead the eye around the image.

His work is challenging for me because he often dissects the frame in places where I wouldn’t have even considered and might have discarded shots that I have taken (I will come back to this in the Reflection section).



©   Lee Friedlander, Knoxville, Tennessee, 1971



©Lynda Wearn, Molyvos 2012

While I am not suggesting that this is a good shot in any way I am now thinking having reviewed Frielander’s compositions that if I had positioned myself in a slightly different position so that the ladder and sail had somewhere to lead the eye to, the fact they are in the middle of the shot would not have been important,

A few of the other photographers I researched:

  • Rui Pahla
    • Influenced by Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Besson, Pahla an amateur photographer, takes some of the most inspiring and candid street photography I have seen.  He has the ability to get in close and capture shots which seem to reach into the souls of his subjects.
  • Vivian Maier
    • Another American photographer although born in Hungary and spending most of her youth in France, Maier’s use of reflection in self-portraits is inspiring. She photographs herself at work, at the hairdressers, shopping and in car wing mirrors.  In fact almost anywhere and she obviously carried a camera with her most of the time.  Maier died in 2009 aged 86 and I have not been able to find anything written about her on the web. – Accessed 29.2.2016
  • Eric Kim
    • Eric Kim is a young photographer photographer from Berkley, California who has a mission statement:

“My life’s mission is to produce as much “Open Source Photography,” to make photography education accessible to all.” Access 2.3.2016

A prolific user of social media Kim has interviewed many photographers and it is through the interviews published on his website that I was introduced to many of the photographers that I researched.  He describes himself as a teacher of photography but in fact he himself is a great photographer and has been interviewed in his own right.

  • Gerry Winogrand
    • Winogrand another favourite of mine was a prolific street photographer who left behind an enormous archive legacy.  He was described as always being on the streets and hated the description of “Street Photographer”.  He did not think that photographs told a story but did think that the photograph should be more interesting and more beautiful than what was photographed.   Eric Kim on 10 Things Garry Winogrand can Teach you about Street Photography – Accessed 3.3.2016 
  • Helen Levitt
    • Levitt has been described as the most celebrated and least known photographer of her time (Wikipedia – Accessed 3.3.2016.  Her photographs taken on the streets of New York of ordinary everyday life; children at play, adults in conversation and shopping and elderly people observing her intention was not to tell a story nor to document social history but to capture what was visually interesting in the poor neighbourhoods she worked in.  Levitt continued to work into her 80’s and died at the age of 96 in 2009.









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