Assignment 3: The (in)decisive Moment


Create a set of between 6 and ten finished images on the theme of the decisive moment.


I haven’t set out with a specific desire to capture the decisive moment, during my research I became less convinced that there is a set plan for completing the brief. I chose instead to review my collection of images from my time on the course and identify the pictures I felt really fit into the definition of a decisive moment.


in preparation for completing this assignment I began researching the most recognised auteur of the decisive moment, Henri Cartier Bresson.

I found on YouTube a video which was a repost of an interview with Bresson discussing the ideas behind several dozen of his images. I found many quotes and ideas resonated with my own drives and aspirations along with several controversial thoughts such as comparing the camera to a weapon or machine gun and claiming photography is not a propaganda tool. With hindsight would Bresson agree with his thoughts on the camera, as today we can see how images can be used to skew views and agendas. Maybe this would embolden the thought of the camera as a weapon. For Bresson, it is clear that the ‘decisive moment‘ represents the idea of not being able to relive the past, “Life is once, forever.” For me, the ‘decisive moment’ is exactly that, capturing the feeling, action or atmosphere of a moment in time. Recording the existential now.

in other parts of his interview Bresson discusses the difference between his approach and ‘traditional’ portraiture or documentary photography. Describing both as boring and factual which he finds uninteresting. His response is “I never think, I act, quickly,” again a thought which resonates with myself, being A mature student I find that I think about the shot more than when I was a beginner in my teens. I also feel that the way photography has been portrayed and recognised in recent years has been to celebrate the planned and contrived shot, rewarding the edit for fixing issues and creating false moments.

The final point I took from the interview was Bresson’s insistence on not ‘overshooting’ meaning to consider the frame and timing but practice patience with the shutter as if you miss the shot overshooting, “maybe the shot was in between.”


The images I have chosen for this assignment are selected from my collection built up since the beginning of my course. Each image had a specific purpose, some for the ‘decisive moment’ some for completely different reason so but upon reviewing I realised I had caught something I couldn’t have planned.

Coincidently all my images were shot in portrait, except one, which is unusual for myself as I typically use landscape format to ensure consistency of framing across a collection. I cropped the one landscape image to ensure the consistency and also to remove unnecessary background.

This image is one from early on in my studies, I had decided to take a trip through the city seeing what the back streets of Manchester offered. I found a small art gallery with a couple stood interacting with the sales consultant. Originally I found the building and shop interesting and as I moved around I noticed the lining up of the statuesque arm, the couple and the framing of the gallery displays and structure. I did shoot several of these images but decided on this as the final, mainly because I felt the person walking across frame perked up what could be a relatively flat and static image.

My second image was almost deleted before I even processed it. On initial review the image seemed fine for a shot of a yellow building in Totnes, nothing especially special or interesting, mainly as I was rushing through the town and not really concentrating. It was only Upon getting home and reviewing the image in a larger screen did I realise I had captured the man licking his lips, the ice cream umbrella to the right being the justification for keeping this image.

Again, this is another image which at first glance was nothing special, I found the brightness of the pants and the stereo typical northern topless man with beer and sunglasses quite amusing, but other wise of little interest on the day. Upon reviewing the images a week or so later after processing off my main choices, I begun to appreciate how his trousers fit into the Pride flag. After looking more closely I begun to see how the group of ladies in the lower left corner were gasping. This coupled with his partner rolling a cigarette meant selection of this image was easy for this assignment.

This images is one from an event I attended as photographer. It was one of the few that I chose specifically for the assignment, seeing the subject waiting alongside the statue in the background immediately caught my eye. I feel this is one that is close to capturing a different kind of decisive moment, one were the timing and framing is secondary to the coincidence of seeing person and object so visually related. A moment that could have been missed if I had been stood elsewhere in the building. Also, the green light just catches both the statue and subject in very similar ways tightening their relation to each other.

This image of a seagull on top of a car was chosen mainly for how the shop signage correlates with the thoughts of a seagulls behaviours. Again a moment which I nearly walked by, it was interesting how the seagull was stood so proudly and unaffected on a busy high street, this itself common in Totnes, but noticing the sign of the sandwich it was clear a pun could be captured.

This final image I have chosen to display as the last in series for two reason. The first being, that this image has slowly become my favourite of the set. Initially I was disappointed as I had aimed to capture the image of the couple kissing as it was significant to the Pride event. Unfortunately I made a small error of judgement and shot through the moment rather than waiting a fraction longer. Surprisingly, the more time I spend with the image the more I like it. I feel it is an excellent example of the ‘(in)decisive moment’ due to the timing error, but similarly I feel that the result also fit the ‘decisive moment’ due to the fact I couldn’t have planned for this specific moment to be captured. I also feel that it presents a subtext of censorship in media regarding LGBTQ rights. We live in a world we’re still not normal to show same gender relationships and displays of affection, unless it is on the designated days of the year.


Completing the assignment has been very reassuring for myself. I found I had several possible images that could be used to suit the brief, images I had decided weren’t suitable for other briefs but knew were worth keeping tabs on. I feel, given more time I would be able to structure a more cohesive set of images around a set subject but I also feel that to truly satisfy the brief of capturing planned moments through developing a sense of timing, human interest and innate intuition, is journey of practice and comprehensive development. Almost as if to truly represent the ‘decisive moment’ takes a body of work rather than set of 6-10 images.

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Harley Bainbridge Photography

Event and Portrait Photographer Manchester 


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