Exercise 5.3: Looking at Photography

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Behind the Gare Saint-Lazard, 1932

For me, the point in this image is not necessarily what we see but, what could be. I’m always drawn back to the heel of the subject but not to examine it as an image or object but as lost expecting the image to change before my eyes.

I feel that the smearing of the subject not only highlights that the silhouette is moving, but moving with speed and with no way to change their direction of momentum making it too late to avoid what is too come. As I force my eyes to move around the rest of the frame I find this feeling of movement in my periphery draws me back in but each time I’m struck by the stillness despite expecting shifting.

I find it hard to explain how my mind expects to see the image move, the closest comparison I find is the ‘live’ photo feature on iPhones were hard pressing the image will trigger the playback of the moments just before and after the actual captured image. My mind plays this effect when I see this image and this is the point or draw for me.

The closest I have come so far with a similar image are two that I took whilst exploring the city recently.

This first image I chose because whilst I don’t feel it represents the same kind of apprenhension and tension as the Bresson image, I find it does start to pose some of the same questions. Questions such as, ‘what are the model and photographer doing?’ ‘What is the writer typing?’ and ‘Why is he there?’ I also feel that whilst there is the grand vista of Manchester Library, that the point of the image is not what we see but the questions about the details in the image instead.

For this second image, I chose this partially for the movement blurred central figure which is akin to the Bresson image but again, the main point is not the suspense of this main subject but the questions raised by all three figures combined. Who is the man on the pavement? Why is he there? How can that person just walk by someone in need? Why is the girl watching the man?

For me, I think to truly represent the same point raised by Bresson image is to be either incredibly calculated or lucky in finding something which captures the feeling of tension conveyed by the anticipation of the outcome of what we see. But I also believe that a similar point can be raised by capturing an image which raises questions and challenges our perceptions of our world.

I find it quite easy to capture interesting buildings and streets and for a moment they are appealing but the long term intrigue is found in what is going on in that world around the prominent setting or subject.

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Harley Bainbridge Photography

Event and Portrait Photographer Manchester 



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