Assignment 3 The Decisive Moment


I spent a week in Morocco with family in February. I knew  this assignment was coming up and although read that holidays were not the best time for projects due to the possibility of needing to  re-work them, There is something about being in a new place that excites me.  For me personally this is how I like to take pictures. I like to be instinctive, although sometimes too fast.

We visited the coastal town of Essaouria. This Westerly port town has a bohemian vibe with a stylish mix of Moroccan and French architecture, art galleries and souvenir stalls. Dark, winding alleys link to make up the souk within the walls and there is a constant smell of cats!

During the first evening there, the sky darkened and sunlight seeped through the clouds producing some beautiful light reflecting onto the white, scuffed buildings. I leant out of the hotel room window and was able to capture the looming clouds and light reflecting on the walls. Being higher up gave me a good viewpoint for the rooftops and circling seagulls…then it poured.

The morning arrived calmer. As I was the first to wake, I grabbed my camera and left the hotel. There is something very liberating about being somewhere new and alone.  The town was waking up, still sleepy it was easier to be relaxed and take pictures of people. It’s quite strange to me that with a camera in your hand and in such a picturesque town that you are still looked at curiously when taking pictures. There is always that feeling that you will be approached and asked what you’re doing.  I remember being asked at a protest in London ‘Why are you taking pictures?’ I replied ‘because that’s what I do’. It seemed very strange to me to be questioned in this way. Maybe, having a camera is a rare sight now so many people use phone cameras.

Research: Henri Cartier-Bresson

L’amour Tout Court (2001) – Henri Cartier- Bresson

To me Henri Cartier-Bresson was a photographer.

Although this seems like a basic and obvious statement, it means he took pictures. He carried a camera and by looking, he could see a photograph and then he took that photograph.

To  Bresson,  this ‘simple’ act of picture taking was a natural response to how he viewed the world and the changing society within it.

In the opening part of the documentary Cartier-Bresson says ‘What matters is to look’ he means to look before you press the shutter, to understand the meaning  of what you want to portray before pressing the shutter.

Cartier-Bresson comes across as very humble and unassuming as a photographer and as a man.  In this documentary, Henri seems to play down his role as one of the greatest image makers and instead is more interested to teach us the simplicity of life. He is showing us that over-complication interferes with our ability to observe our surroundings.

The interviewer is asking about one of Bresson’s most iconic images ‘Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris 1932. Where Bresson speaks of trying to fit the camera through the railings and not being able to see through the viewfinder. He was not aware of the man leaping and the interviewer responds with ‘That was lucky’.

‘It’s always luck. It’s luck that matters, you have to be receptive, that’s all. Like the relationship between things, It’s a matter of chance, that’s all. If you want it, you get nothing. Just be receptive and it happens’. Henri Cartier-Bresson L’amour Tout Court (2001)

What he is saying is that if you try too hard, you miss the point (and miss the picture). Again he is simplifying the photographic process. He is unobtrusive and speaks about choosing ’ form’ over ‘light’.  When talking about the importance of geometry in a photograph and how it sits within the frame he remarks ‘ A sense of geometry, you either have it or you don’t’. Henri Cartier-Bresson L’amour Tout Court (2001).


I used the camera mainly on program setting, I like this for street style photography which I think my pictures for this assignment are. I was happy that with the morning light I could use 400 iso and that was giving me from around F8 to F16 to maintain a sharp depth of field. I was set to 0.3 exposure compensation to help ‘lift’ some of the shadows in the darker alleyways. When travelling I use a Nikon D40 with 18-55 lens. It’s light, and produces good sharp images.

As the day went on more shadows formed adding extra angles to the buildings. As I spent longer in the souk and on the beach I could absorb more of the rythmn of the town.

The pictures were taken as individual pieces although I think as they are taken in the same town they could also be used as a series.

To fit the brief I think some work better than others. I feel that I understand ‘The Decisive Moment’ but, I certainly have pictures taken before I started studying with the OCA that may fit the brief even better.

Contact sheet:ContactSheet decisive momentFinal Selection:

How do the images relate to the concept of ‘The Decisive Moment’

  1. I used the beam of light that momentarily appeared and lit the building as the moment to capture. As I framed the image in the viewfinder however, a seagull flew across the frame. I took the shot when the bird had flown past the central point of the building. This has balanced the image and given another element to the decisive moment.
  2. The afternoon sun throws slanted, lazy shadows through the roof covering. There are sun loungers, but the tourist is too sleepy to move and stays in his chair. The moment is captured as his eyes close. The shadows mimic heavy eyelashes refusing to stay open.
  3. A woman wearing a burkha strolls along the shoreline. I wanted to focus on the island but use the woman to almost frame the picture. As the woman started to leave the frame, a gust of wind ruffled her clothes, I took the picture capturing the billowing layers, she glanced at me at that moment and our eyes met.
  4. I began to take this picture as I was drawn to the blue of the shutters and sky. The decisive moment I was trying to capture was when each shutter was exactly even within the wall spaces. I didn’t notice the seagull until I edited the pictures. The bird could have given another dimension to the decisive moment if it had taken flight
  5. Early morning light exaggerated the decaying texture of the wall. The town was quiet and as I lifted the camera to record the walls I was aware of a shape moving into the picture. I pressed the shutter first and realised I had captured a man walking across the archway. This figure was totally unexpected and created a decisive moment. If I had anticipated the shot or waited for a figure, I would have agreed with critics that it could be a clichéd representation of a decisive moment. Luckily this was not the case.
  6. This image is about layers and perception, creating an almost collage effect.. The decisive moment happens for me when a reflection of a boy wearing a hat comes into the frame giving another dimension to the picture. There is a customer, a barber, models heads and a boy. A deconstructed group image reflecting the images of man.
  7. Again, attracted to the walls and the blue details of the buildings, I also noticed a lady begging with a blue headscarf. The moment I captured shows a man walking away from her, emphasizing the lineage of the street and rejection. This time she has been unlucky and she turns towards me just as I press the shutter.

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