“There’s a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative. Once you miss it, it’s gone forever.” This is the Decisive Moment as described by the father of street photography, Cartier-Bresson.
The miniature-format cameras of the day empowered Cartier-Bresson to access the decisive moment. Perhaps this is why he called his Leica “the velvet hand…the hawk’s eye.” He even wrapped black tape around its chrome body to make it less conspicuous.
If he were alive today, we can assume Cartier-Bresson would be drawn to the iPhone or something similar because of its uncompromising inconspicuousness. He would also undoubtedly have been impressed with its unique ability to counteract his assertion that “people think far too much about techniques and not enough about seeing.”
Indeed, thanks to its technical ability, in-pocket accessibility and stealthy personality, the iPhone is able to get out of the way and project the shooter straight to the heart of the decisive moment.
Let’s explore some images that showcase the iPhone’s remarkable ability to capture decisive moments.
Right of Way
Inglewood, October 2012
Although the Space Shuttle Endeavour was crawling really slowly through Los Angeles streets, I had to have my wits about me to capture the bounty of jaw-dropping juxtapositions that were constantly being revealed.
On Your Left
Los Angeles, June 2012
Shot from the hip while riding my bike. Toy guns, yes, but in the America of today, this humorous scenario could have ended in tragedy.
And Then This Happened
Los Angeles, May 2012
This morbidly humorous photograph expresses something about the suburban condition that I can’t quite put my finger on. That I got the shot still tickles my fancy.
Kick Out the Jams
Sometimes you have to activate your 6th sense and plug in to circumstances before they unfold. When you spend enough time on the streets with your iPhone, it’s something that just happens.
Los Angeles, June 2011
While not quite ready for the big time, this little guy seems to have a fair inkling of what’s coming down the pike. I badly wish I had used a different Hipstamatic filter.
Santa Monica, September 2014
I was lying on the beach when I felt a huge presence drift into my space. Fortunately Oggl was open and I instinctively hit that beautiful yellow button. Pow!
Oh No You Don’t
Santa Monica, September 2014
I was experimenting with water reflections when I heard a commotion to my left. A runaway child came into view with his irate mother chasing him at a clip. Suddenly everything was moving in slow motion and I was able to pick my shot. I love when that happens!
San Francisco, Oct 2013
In the photo pit at a large festival, you’re “competing” with dozens of photographers, all trying to capture the decisive moment. No luck involved here. In my mind’s eye, I knew exactly what I wanted. I maneuvered myself into position and helped myself to it with seconds to spare.
Line of Sight
Venice Beach, January 2014
The stars aligned for me on this one. A decisive moment stretching back decades to a distant but far-from-forgotten past.
Venice Beach, March 2013
Decisive moments are particularly plentiful at Venice Beach Skate Park. All you have to do is show up and shoot.
So what do you need to synch your vision to the decisive moments that are happening around you? For a start, get on your feet or your bicycle and immerse yourself optimistically in your surroundings. Then make sure you’re armed with your iPhone and your curiosity. And lastly, listen to your inner storyteller, because when you can plug into the narrative of the scenes you find yourself in, you can predict the way things are going to unfold. And when that happens, those decisive moments are yours for the taking.
Please share your own stories about capturing decisive moments in the comments below.
Dubbed “LA’s iPhoneography Wizard” by Forbes Magazine, Alon Goldsmith is an award-winning photographer who has been featured extensively across media and exhibited in galleries around the globe. His recent achievements include Honorable Mentions in the Mobile Photography Awards, a category win in the Hipstography Awards, publication in the Los Angeles Times and Reader’s Digest, features in Snap Magazine, a one-man show in Brentwood and San Diego, and a group show at HaleARTS in Santa Monica. His work is currently on display as part of Click. Boom. Amazing!, an exhibition put on by Hipstography at the Sofitel Brussels.