Category Archives: Planning

Assignment 3: The Decisive Moment – First Thoughts

First Thoughts

My first thoughts for this assignment were that I was NOT going to do street photography.  I find it emotionally challenging. However, the weather and circumstances worked against me and I found myself considering another go at street photography.


My first thoughts included a number of subjects and a number of locations.  As I was about to start the shoot a very strong storm (Imogen) blew through, causing damage and making outside photography impossible.  I waited and then visited Slimbridge Nature Reserve.  I took several images of various exotic birds but for most I was rather too far away and the cold weather was a limiting factor.  I re-considered my options and decided to shoot in shopping malls.  I started in Newcastle Metro Centre and did a second shoot at Cabots Circus in Bristol.



Based on feedback from my last assignment and before the shoots I considered:

  • composition
  • framing
  • leading lines
  • reflections
  • simplicity
  • backgrounds
  • architecture

Again taking into account feedback from Assignment 2 I researched a great number of famous street photographers paying particular attention to how they composed and framed their shots and how they used other “props” such as reflections to lead the eye around the image.


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.

“Street photography is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”  Leuthard T. (2011)   (accessed 28.2.2016)

Valerie Jardin

I particularly liked the way Jardin  uses structures as well as reflections and candid shots for context.  Like Leuthard he also writes and shares his expertise freely.  Hi 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, (Accessed 28.1.2016)


Diane Arbus

I have long admired the work of Diane Arbus and her ability to capture the most unusual and interesting aspects of life.    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

    • Eric Kim
      • Eric Kim is a young photographer photographer from Berkley, California who has a mission statement: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


    “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.

    • Garry 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  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.   Levitt (Accessed 2.3.2016)

All of the photographers that I researched take very interesting and compelling street photography and although different in style they together bring the concept of how to take effective street photography together.  In my next assignment I will be using some of the techniques and compositions I have read about to improve my street photography.  After all it can only get better after my last attempt (I hope).