The Decisive Moment 2.0

The photography world is in hyperactivity. It’s biennial Photokina time, lots of exciting announcements, just to mention the-wait-is-over Canon 7D Mark II (Amazon / B&H Photo / Adorama), world’s probably top APS-C camera. Photography sites and forums are flooded with enthusiasm, exasperation and bad blood, so let’s swim a bit against the tide of nonstop gear announcements. What about the new edition of Henri Cartier-Bresson — The Decisive Moment:

The book’s original titled Images à la Sauvette (“Images on the Sly” a.k.a. snapshots…) was published in 1952 by Simon and Schuster, New York, in collaboration with Éditions Verve, Paris. This October a carefully edited, meticulous facsimile of the original book will be released.

Henri Cartier-Bresson -- The Decisive Moment reloaded; available on Amazon.
Henri Cartier-Bresson — The Decisive Moment reloaded; available on Amazon.
The book and its images, lavishly embellished with a collage cover by Henri Matisse, have since influenced generations of photographers. The book included a portfolio of 126 of Cartier-Bresson photos from the East and the West. For his 4,500-word philosophical preface, Cartier-Bresson took his keynote text from the 17th century Cardinal de Retz:

Il n’y a rien dans ce monde qui n’ait un moment décisif.

There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.

“To me,” Cartier-Bresson once said, “photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”

But… why “decisive moment”? It was the U.S. publisher that had come up with the English title The Decisive Moment. It was mainly this English translation that has since defined the notion of the famous formal peak in which all elements in the photographic frame accumulate to form the perfect image.

“Photography is not like painting,” Cartier-Bresson told an interviewer in 1957. “There is 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. Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”

Paired with the artist’s humanist viewpoint, Cartier-Bresson’s photography has since become part of the world’s collective memory. This new edition of The Decisive Moment comes with an additional booklet containing an essay on the history of The Decisive Moment by Centre Pompidou curator Clément Chéroux.

+++ Kind of a must-have book. The new edition of The Decisive Moment is available on Amazon.

To conclude, here’s something you better watch again and again. And again: