Friday, 28 January 2011

Why I love photography...

I love Henri Cartier-Bresson’s idea of the "decisive moment" – of capturing the “whole essence of some situation” that is “unrolling” before your eyes with a single photograph. It’s the neatness of it – the concision of saying so much with just one image. And the very greatest photos will always reveal more and more to you as you live with them over time.

Cartier-Bresson talks of how he, “prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung-up and ready to pounce, determined to ‘trap’ life - to preserve life in the act of living."

For him a, "slice of ordinary life is picked almost at random, and acquires a new meaning by its recontextualization through the strategy of dépaysement".

"Dépaysement" means to "decountrify oneself" and is defined as the experience of re-seeing. "One leaves one's own culture to face something unfamiliar, and upon returning home it has become strange – and can be seen with fresh eyes."

This chimes with theory of many of the surrealists at the time. However, for Cartier-Bresson this find expression in the capacity of the photographer to uncover facets of everyday life  that go unnoticed until the photographer reveals them. He hunted in the street for juxtapositions whose ironic contrasts would surprise people and make them see the world with new eyes.

This approach has been taken forward by many famous photographers, some of whom talk eloquently, movingly, about what they do. Steve McCurry, most famous for his shot of the Afghan refugee on the cover of National Geographic, commented:

"Most of my images are grounded in people. I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face. I try to convey what it is like to be that person, a person caught in a broader landscape that you could call the human condition.”

It’s another tough one to choose my top ten, but I’ll give it a go...I won’t even attempt to stack rank them though!

Ansel Adams
Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Edward Weston
Dorothea Lange
Henri Cartier-Bresson
Bill Brandt
Galen Rowell
Art Wolf
Ami Vitale
Yousuf Karsh

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