The Decisive Moment

Robert Capa - Death of a Loyalist Soldier

A term coined by one of the few photojournalists whose work transcended reportage and became art, Henri Cartier Bresson. A term championed first by legions, and then generations of photojournalists. A term which had a very profound effect on my 16 year old aspiring photographic eye in Indiana. Fifty years after its definition in manifesto form, the Decisive Moment was a conflux of art and journalism, of form and of social concern and realism that spoke to me. At the point of its definition, the concept was also revolutionary because it employed the new technologies that allowed the miniaturization of cameras, and allowed the photographer to be incognito.

There is an architecture of the decisive moment, there is an architecture of the elastic space between two people, one that breathes back to life from its subconscious slumber in the moment before public encounter, and strings its tendrils deep into our psyche after. I am out to find it.

Here’s a tentative reading and influences list:

  • Malcom Gladwell’s Blink
  • Architicture – Ecstasies of Space, Time, and the Human Body by David Farrell Krell
  • The photography of Bresson and Robert Capa.
  • J.G. Ballard’s fiction about the strange and distressing lurking just below the surface – I don’t know which yet…
  • Edward Hopper
  • Carl Jung, and the idea of imprinting
  • And on a “lighter” note, a man who we should bring to speak to the Bartlett: Monochrom – Zeigerpointer

Possible sources that I’ve thus far started exploring:

  • Survival Research Labs and their reinsertion of danger and performance into public space.
  • Hypnerotomachia Poliphilia. (just a subject that keeps coming up, I am going to see if that rabbit hole goes anywhere)
  • The Arcades Project.

So this is an exercise of working through anomie, disassociation, and inhumanity in order to get back to an architecture of humanist engagement and connection.

Possible techniques – “routes into” this exploration:

  • Exploring the nature of connections between people through speed dating
  • Spending 24+ hours straight at each site to observe the changes of each.
  • Close reading of the spaces – looking for the routes in, as a “text.”
  • Documenting as many alternative conceptions of each site as possible – direct actions, performances, and intervention in the sites.
  • In order to attempt to break the “rigor” of examination that often leads to finding exactly what one’s psyche wants to project onto the territory of the investigation, I am leaving myself open to possibility, to improvisation.

It’s a big big task to look at something this fleeting, but I’m going to try and tackle it. If you have any ideas, or think I’m on to something, if something resonates with you or you think I’m full of it, comment here and let me know.

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1 Comment

  1. Yep, the Krell book wasn’t what I was looking for. Off the list.


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