A few days ago, I was reading “Decisive Moment 1″ by Richard Kalvar on the Magnum Photography blog. An interesting read that made me think about a necessary moment vs. an unnecessary moment. And how could an unnecessary moment not be decisive? It all depends on the definition we give to a necessary or unnecessary moment. From a street photographer’s point of view, we are all looking for this unnecessary moment, the ordinary one that makes the picture necessary to be taken and justifies pressing the shutter button. The question is how should we determine the necessary or unnecessary moment to be decisive?
As Richard Kalvar mentioned in his post, it is true that the definition of the decisive moment may not be the same for everyone. Our visual perception (and analysis) of a situation may vary. Out of 10 photographers taking photographs of the same situation, only one may find the single moment that would give strength to a scene by adding a sudden visual element, a sudden extra scene into the scene or some element of colour emphasizing others. Only one may find the single moment by just getting the right visual set up for the right scene or by finding the right geometrical forms at the right moment. And often it is a matter of a fraction of a second. This is where the necessary moment exists whether the photograph is necessary or unnecessary. However, the necessary moment can also rely on history or news through simple or more complex images but timeless for what they illustrate. From this perspective and at a time where everybody has a camera integrated in a mobile phone, does this mean that anyone could take a decisive moment? From a moment point of view, I would say yes. From an artistic point of view I would say no. I still believe that good composition (or at least strong visuals or subject in the frame) is necessary to reach a certain excellence. There is nothing worst than a decisive moment in a mediocre framing.