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Henri-Cartier Bresson, was renowned for his Street Photography and the phrase of the ‘Decisive Moment’. So where has the phrase the Decisive Moment come from?

It (the Decisive Moment) is probably the most mentioned and discussed phrase in photography. His work shows glimpses of reality and in geometric patterns. He was obsessed with form, composition and aesthetics of photography. He began in earnest to photograph seriously in the 1930s influenced by the Surrealists. Cartier-Bresson was also an accomplished painter. Cartier-Bresson’s book published in 1947 ‘The Decisive Moment’ the book is divided into two chronological and geographical sections. The first years 1932 to 1947 and comprises of photographs in the west; the second from 1947 to 1952 and mainly in the east.

In Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Brussels, 1932, using a small-format Leica created intrigue and air of mystery with two males facing a cloth barrier one of whom appears to be peeping through, while the other acts as a look out and he gazes uneasily. Why does there appear to be such a look of guilt? There seems to be a respect for authority. Isn’t it the case that whenever a police car follows you and although you have done nothing wrong and committed no offence you feel guilty and you behaviour changes. Yet the police have no interest in your activity, unless you are doing something illegal. I wonder how the facial expressions would look like? Would it be the same as the two gents in 1932?



The decisive moment, which was at the core of photography for over a century, has been whittled away by technology. Now, on your DSLR you can roll video and (while editing) pluck out a perfectly good quality frame – this makes me push my work further.’ (Bonita Evans, 2016)

In essence Nick Brandt makes a statement that the decisive moment no longer exists because technology no longer allows that to take place. Surely a decisive moment still dictates when to capture that moment although editing removes that whereas with film you cannot simply delete and move on. Brandt says in his article that ‘There’s a part of me that wants to go through the stress, neurosis and paranoia of using film. You don’t have the luxury and temptation (or distraction) to check what you just shot with analogue, so you have to stay utterly focused and in the moment with your subject matter.’ (Bonita Evans, 2016)


Bonita Evans, A. (2016) ‘Hearing Nature’s Cry’, Black+White Photography, September 2016, p. 96.