Thursday, August 4, 2011

Photography - is the Decisive Moment DEAD?

John Gossage - from The Thirty Two Inch Ruler / Map of Babylon

I've noticed on the blog-a-sphere of late a lot of talk about the old Decisive Moment chestnut. Is it dead or not? For me the phrase is tired and worn-out but the idea still has a lot of traction. Think about it. Other than William Eggleston who professes to only ever shoot one frame of any subject, I'd guess most of us will shoot around what we are looking at, maybe 3 or 4 pictures. And those photographs are not all created equal. In my case, always, one image will stand out above the rest every time. Why? As H C-B said it's the geometry. It's when everything comes together, the photograph just works. It's like hitting the bulls eye in darts. Pocketing the black.
But we are only talking form here. I'm assuming that the content issue is addressed, working and when heading out to shoot pictures the idea is firmly in the head. I say this because contrary to some schools of thought, if you don't get the content / form balance just right all the "geometry" in the world will not save a photograph with no substance. We know it. There are far too many photographs made and put on dealer gallery walls just for their decorative formal qualities.

The other issue that goes hand in hand with geometry is context. A good photograph is as much about what you leave out of the frame as leave in. Looking again at John Gossage's The Thirty Two Inch Ruler bookwork, John is a master at getting the context just right. Like the photograph of a solitary leaf lying on a pavement, or the cross of what looks like red string, the stickers on a car window. These pictures work because of the small details and the fact that they have been given room to breath, room to play. Room to add to the mystery. And the geometry is just right too. No easy task because as you pull back, leave more in, it becomes harder to get the geometry right.

Now let's go and make some photographs!

 John Gossage - from The Auckland Project


Anonymous said...

Thanks Harvey

But don't tell them where the post with two nails is located, or everyone will be out taking shots of it.


Harvey's Blog said...

Actually, I soon have a new book coming out, it's called TWO NAILS AND ONE HUNDRED AND ONE VARIATIONS......