Decent Photojournalism Using Bressonian Decisive Moment Style

I read a wonderful blog post. I already mentioned this on Twitter @CooperStrange, but wanted to flesh it out more here: I was particularly affected by a recent article on the Strobist site. It was not the regular Strobist, off-camera lighting spiel, but rather a deeper look into the business of photography…though in this case, the non-business might be more accurate.

Well, so I do not overload you with a long post here (because if you actually follow that link and read his post, it is already quite long), I will cut to the chase. The Strobist post was good, but I very much liked the e-mail he left a link to near the bottom of the site. This was an e-mail from a friend of Mr. Stobist (David Hobby) who was passionately explaining his idea of developing documentary (story telling) photographers by teaching them “how to create decent photojournalism using Bressonian decisive moment style.”

Just in the last post, I mentioned Henri Cartier-Bresson, right? Here I have stumbled across him again. Well, I guess that should not come as any huge shock; he was, by most accounts, one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, after all. Why was he famous, though? Aha, so we get to it. He was all about catching the decisive moment, that was his motto, of sorts.

The guy who was e-mailing with Mr. Stobist was one of the creators (I do not know anything about them, but at the very least, he was one of the creators) of Momenta Workshops, which uses “photography as a force of change”. One the main themes in that document was that the tools necessary to tell the stories are accessible to all of us. For a very minimal investment, we can be documenting stories that really should be told. Instead of gawking at the newest National Geographic, maybe we should be learning how to tell the stories nobody else is going to tell.

That quote above, though, said it all for me. I may never be pro, and honestly the more I know about being a pro photog, the more I tend to not want to be a pro, but I can still create “decent photojournalism”. Now, I have never seen Time or NatGeo show up in the places I have lived, so who is going to tell the story?

And the second half of the quote guides us to a huge solution: “using Bressonian decisive moment style”. In other words, teaching budding photographers to stop shooting randomly allowing the equipment to think for you, and start reading situations and people, feeling the moment, and focusing entirely on catching the “decisive moment” that tells the story. Piece a few decisive moments together, and you have a quality story worth telling.

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