Research point

Watch the Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary ‘L’amour de court’  (‘Just plain love’, 2001) available in five parts on YouTube:
Write a personal response to the film in the contextual section of your learning log, taking care to reference properly any quotations you use (300–500 words).
• Whenever you read or watch something, get into the habit of putting anything you take directly from the source in quotation marks and note down full bibliographic details. If you do this, you won’t have to spend ages hunting for half-remembered references later – and you won’t inadvertently plagiarise someone else’s work. Always use Harvard referencing; print out the study guide on the student website and keep this to hand.
• Be very careful about what you put on your blog. Take a moment now to read what the OCA learning blog study guide says about copyright law and fair use or fair dealing.
Today the decisive moment is often criticised for having become something of a stylistic cliché. In the decades after the 1930s, the most creative phase of Cartier-Bresson’s street photography, thousands of photographers learned the techniques of the ‘moment décisif’ – leading inevitably, perhaps, to derivative work.
Another criticism of the decisive moment is that it somehow just misses the point of our contemporary situation. Reviewing Paul Graham’s recent photobook The Present, Colin Pantall writes:

…what he [Graham] wants us to see is the antithesis of the decisive moment and the spectacle of the urban experience. Instead we get a very contemporary contingency, a street with moments so decisively indecisive that we don’t really know what we are looking at or looking for.

Zouhair Ghazzal agrees that the decisive moment has become more of a cliché than a reality, although he believes it can contain something essential of life.  But in a similar way to Pantall’s interpretation of Graham’s work, Ghazzal finds the contemporary urban landscape just ‘too monotonous and dull’ for the decisive moment.
Despite these criticisms, Cartier-Bresson does still seem to speak of something essential in photography. ‘Observational skills’ are mentioned in the assessment criteria but unfortunately there are no sure methods available to learn how to look. As with composition, it would seem to be something that is just discovered (or re-discovered?) for oneself.

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