The Decisive Moment

lemmy 12 2.8k United Kingdom
6 Mar 2012 7:03PM

Quote:Thought this interesting

Just watched it through, very interesting as you say. I have a little personal experience of this from covering the first Gulf War where I was stationed in Tel Aviv but going out to the Iraqi border, Jordan and Lebanon.

One day, the Israeli army arranged a photo shoot for us all, of one of their patrols on the Lebanese border. An American woman photographer refused to take part in it on the basis that it was a staged event. The Israeli army press liaison guy aid, yes, that was true but it had simply been brought forward by 2 hours to help the photographers with their deadlines. On the other hand, various freelances covered it because.....well, they are earning a living and the time change did help them. Just because they are this 'glamorous thing' a war photographer, doesn't mean they don't have mortgages and families to feed. A picture sold keeps them at the front and their family provided for, just the same as a car sold feeds the family of a motor dealer.

I don't know where I stand on this. I went along to take pictures knowing they were of no interest to the people I was working for but having nothing better to do at that moment. The pictures would presumably have been the same if they had been taken two hours later. On the other hand, they were staged in terms of time.

My main observation on this is that people who have never been in war situations find these questions much easier to be black and white about than those who have personal experience. As the documentary photographer observes in the video, photographers are not invisible. People do things because they are there. That is completely unavoidable. Like the unbiased observer, the invisible photographer is a logical impossibility.

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SlowSong Plus
11 8.4k 30 England
7 Mar 2012 11:44AM
Just had to say I'm enthralled by all these wonderful names being mentioned here which take me back to when I began learning photography. Salgado, McCullin and Robert Frank were my idols - Frank still is - he's so free. And the recent exhibition at the National Theatre by Ravillious was inspiring.

Although admiring Bresson's work I always thought that he had such privileged access to any occasion that it would've been hard for him not to get a good image (and I don't demean his work because of that - just an observation). I'm sure many photographers would've got just as impressive shots if given the same situation. I always admired the war photographers' work more as they just used the cards they were dealt under horrific conditions. I still remember the shot of the little albino African boy taken by McCullin, who was bullied and left out by his more naturally-coloured peers. It's a moving image and I've never forgotten it. This sort of image to me has more impact than a man jumping over a puddle which, as far as I can remember, was chosen from a whole reel of shots of the same subject.

On the other hand, talking about setting up a scene, surely O Winston Link was the master. The complete opposite to Bresson in that he planned everything on such a grand scale. The work behind his shots was phenomenal and the decisive moment had to be precisely planned to the 'nth degree. Wonderful. So which decisive moment is best? The one taken with exceptional planning, or a serendipidous capture amongst a whole reel? I know which one must have been easiest.
lemmy 12 2.8k United Kingdom
7 Mar 2012 12:32PM

Quote:I know which one must have been easiest.

I think we'd probably agree that which was easiest is irrelevant. All that counts is the image. You learn that quickly professionally. You shoot a set of pictures for a magazine and take the trannies in. They are on the lightbox. Some pictures have taken you hours of work and thought. Another was shot as an afterthought when you were just about to leave. To the picture or art editor, they are all just images and he or she is as likely to pick the hasty image as the planned one. A good picture editor sees only the image and will not listen to the photographer's spiel. The best picture editor I ever worked with liked photographers in general - except the ones 'who talk a good picture' as he put it. A picture tells a story - if it needs explanation as to how it was taken or why it has failed. It stands or not.

The thing that is often forgotten about the photographer's art is that you have to be there to get the picture, as you say. There are many, many photographers, amateur and professional especially with today's equipment, who could get the picture. The successful ones are the ones with the nous, drive and ambition to get themselves into the position to make the picture. That's where personality and drive come in. Those are the photographers. The others are cameramen.

When I applied for my apprenticeship as a press photographer the chief photographer was looking for someone who didn't have any knowledge of photography but who was bright, ambitious and got on with people (me? I think I may have been the exception Smile). His point of view was that he could teach a monkey to take pictures - the difficulty was in finding people willing to put in the long, long hours of work and with the personality to make people cooperate with what you wanted them to do.
SlowSong Plus
11 8.4k 30 England
7 Mar 2012 1:20PM

Quote:The successful ones are the ones with the nous, drive and ambition to get themselves into the position to make the picture. That's where personality and drive come in. Those are the photographers. The others are cameramen.
I absolutely couldn't agree more. And it must be even more difficult to start up and survive these days. Very interesting read. Smile
lemmy 12 2.8k United Kingdom
7 Mar 2012 2:27PM

Quote: And it must be even more difficult to start up and survive these days.

Yes, so much competition and, in the media, so many people working for nothing.

I became a photographer after answering an ad in my local paper, The Kent and Sussex Courier...yes they advertised for a trainee. Today such staff jobs hardly exist and where they do are poorly paid and insecure.

When I first went to Fleet Street in 1969 the Daily Mirror had 30 odd staff photographers in London alone. The Express had over 40. When I freelanced in the 80s, a good idea and a good set of pix which got used as a centre spread in the Mail earned you enough to live on for a month. Today you'd need four or more. Impossible, of course. My personal day rate in 1984 was nearly double what the day rate is today - 25 years later.

I just thank my lucky stars that I worked in the years I did and I do feel for young people trying to get a foothold in the business today. They are having to climb over one another for what was handed to me on a plate.

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