One of the photographers I follow occasionally through Facebook is Eric Kim, a street photographer who runs workshops all over the world, and provides detailed information about the why’s and wherefores of this art, including a some useful links that clarify the often misunderstood laws relating to public photography.
I’d read one of his recent posts about “the decisive moment”, a phrase coined by Henri Cartier-Bresson to describe the way in which a skilled photographer can synchronise pressing the shutter button with the optimum moment in a scene that is unfolding before them. Joe McNally paraphrased this in his book “The Moment It Clicks“.
Eric writes that from his studies of the full range of images taken by great photographers it is clear that they shoot multiple images as they find something of interest and then select the critical shot from a range of possibilities. You can see what he means by reading the article here.
Thus inspired, I decided to hit the streets today and abandon my usual collaborative approach in favour of something more predatory. I walked into the centre of Sunderland, found myself an unobtrusive place to sit and watched the world go by in anticipation.
Didn’t shoot a single image.
OK, we’ll up sticks and find somewhere else to sit, a bench at right angles to the flow of human traffic. An elderly woman and a younger man sat opposite me, restricting me options but I resolved to wait. Still nothing.
After a while the son got up to window shop and I realised I’d been missing the best opportunity – the woman opposite! Hearing the siren of a police car alongside us, she was distracted long enough for me to capture one frame only, but I wasn’t convinced I’d found gold yet.
Eventually I put it down to experience and decided to head back home, but as I returned to my car I spotted a young woman smoking in a street cafe. Something about the poise of her slender fingers and the angle of the cigarette leaving her lips appealed to me, so I raised the camera to shoot, a motion which alerted her and she turned away laughing. I shot one frame, but was so convinced that I’d missed the moment I didn’t even offer her a card or ask her name. Even if I’d clicked before she moved, the whole “quick on the draw” thing doesn’t work for photography, not if you want sharp and focused images.
And the result?
Well you can be the judge.