Inspired by: Henri Cartier-Bresson
This month in our Inspired by series we're turning our attention to the legendary Henri Cartier-Bresson – the French humanist photographer who invented street photography. During a long and successful career, Henri turned his talent to many genres of photography, but it's for his candid street images that he's most well known.
This week we're going to explore how you can learn from the master and capture some decisive moments of your own.
The decisive moment
Henri talked often about the ‘decisive moment’ – that brief window of opportunity during which all elements of the image align to offer the magical shot. He considered learning how to see these gifts and having the skill to capture them the most important aspects of photography, and he wrote many words on this subject, such as:
The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box.
Henri was a master at finding interesting compositions for his work, but he was at pains to point out that this was an unconscious result of the freedom with which he shot. A skilled photographer with an artist's eye will instinctively find great composition, so once you know the rules, have faith in yourself to shoot quickly and without thought. Remember that the decisive moment is key!
The subject is everything
Street photography is all about capturing engaging images of life as it unfolds – the subject is everything! Set your gear up so that you can quickly fire off shots without a technical thought – even if that means shooting in automatic (P) mode – so that you can give the people you photograph your undivided attention. Henri knew that the only way to produce great images on a consistent basis was to be fascinated by people and be totally focused on them rather than his camera.
Although Henri was famous for talking about the decisive moment, don't be fooled into thinking that he nailed every shot first time. No, instead, he took multiple images of the scene that interested him in an attempt to capture that decisive moment – or series of them – so don't be afraid to be a little bit click happy when street shooting.
Follow these tips from one of the great masters of street photography and you too might be exhibiting your images in galleries around the world! If nothing else, you'll have a fine body of work that would look great printed onto canvas!