‘When somebody sees something and experiences it – that’s when art happens
If photography is an event then looking at photography should also be an event.
Look again at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph c in Part Three. (If you can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can see an original print on permanent display in the Photography Gallery.) Is there a single element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns again and again? What information does this ‘point’ contain? Remember that a point is not a shape. It may be a place, or even a ‘discontinuity’ – a gap. The most important thing though is not to try to guess the ‘right answer’ but to make a creative response, to articulate your ‘personal voice’.
Include a short response to Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in your learning log. You can be as imaginative as you like. In order to contextualise your discussion, you might want to include one or two of your own shots, and you may wish to refer to Rinko Kawauchi’s photograph mentioned above or the Theatres series by Hiroshi Sugimoto discussed in Part Three. Write about 300 words.
Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare
To me this image is a composite of several factors that come together to make a frame, the most important thing that comes to mind is the decisive moment. I am not sure whether it is because of the subconscious conditioning of this image being the epitome for the decisive moment or what or that the image in question has been open to interpretation so often and by so many people. Although it has been debated a lot, I do believe in the decisive moment, and being at the right place and at the right time. And that a moment can happen anywhere. So a lot of factors that could have been responsible for the making of this image, the strongest being that Cartier-Bresson was at the right place at the right time and pressed the shutter button precisely.
This image has a lot going on with many significant elements within it. The first point that the eye goes to is the leap or the jumping man in the image. Besides being an early example of capturing a moment with usage of shutter speed, it also brings a lot of thoughts to the mind. My first thought is that the leaping man is about to step into the puddle and get soaked. The next place where the eye goes to is the moving ladder which shows that the man just leaped on to the ladder and used it to get the momentum to make that jump which is still going to land him into the water puddle nonetheless.
The body language of the man seems to be one of a happy stance, his jumping from one place to another depicting his happy-go-lucky attitude, knowing his front foot is going to land into the puddle next. Philosophically, It may make you think many thoughts like a leap into the future – the unknown? What happens next is another thought that comes to the mind. It also makes me wonder if somehow the man lost his balance due to the movement of the ladder and jumped still, but now having missed his anticipated landing. The ending of the frame also makes me wonder what’s ahead of the man?
The image is set against the backdrop of the sloping roofs of the railway station and the presence of strong shapes and lines within the frame make this image a classic Bresson image.
Fig 1 Cartier Bresson, H. (1932) Behind The Gare Saint Lazare. [image] At: https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auction/2020/photographs-2/henri-cartier-bresson-behind-the-gare-saint-lazare (Accessed 14/12/2020).
Bonciu, T. (2020) Henri Cartier Bresson The Decisive Moment. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdgoFosUoYo (Accessed 15/12/2020).