The decisive moment…..a concept, popularized by photojournalist/street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, that focuses around all the elements of a photo coming together just right to create the perfect capture. It’s luck meeting preparation, or a visual representation of the feeling I get while pulling up in front of my building just as someone is pulling out of a parking space….at 2am…..on the non-street cleaning side. The decisive moment is the capture we all aim for, whether you are a professional photographer* or an iPhone-wielding mom hovering over her child, waiting for the cutest of all cute moments to happen so she can post it to every Facebook mommy page, freak out when Gerber clicks “like” on the pic on Instagram and try to rake in every sponsor, from Buy Buy Baby to Enfamil, and retire early on a Scrooge McDuck-sized pile of diaper money. Me? I live for the indecisive moments.
I get it. We all want the game-winning shot at the buzzer, but how often do we focus on the plays that get us there? Or how about this cliche: “without the sour, we wouldn’t appreciate the sweet.” Basically, my approach to street photography is along the lines of reading the entire book and not just the CliffsNotes. I have as much appreciation for the mundane as I do for the epic, because these are the moments that tie the whole story together. Life is not a reality TV show, where every moment has to be salacious and attention-grabbing, but that doesn’t mean the day-to-day menial occurrences of our lives are unimportant. I want to look back and remember those random “meaningless” moments the same way I look back on the memorable times. I often daydream while looking through old family photos, wondering what was going on when the photo was taken, trying to decipher the expressions and background story of each photo. Even without a hint of aesthetics, these old 35mm/Polaroid photos with soft focus and blown highlights, harsh on-camera flash and no semblance of composition….they intrigue me because of their relevance to my life, my own story.
In my experience, shooting to tell a story through a series of images, and not just a single image, is more challenging due to the fact that I have to do at least one of the following: 1) Shoot an entire series of images that could each stand alone as a strong photo or 2) Exhibit full confidence that my “filler” shots are going to enhance the entire series, and not turn it into a group of average photos with 1 or 2 shining moments. Either way, that’s a tough task for me. The first, for obvious reasons, and the latter because I’m a wreck when it comes to seeing value in my work (c’mon, what artist isn’t????). So, since the first option is pretty much off the table every time I head out to shoot, I’ve resorted to a constant quest of celebrating my B-roll, and using it as both a timeline and cornerstone to prop up the portfolio images that I love, but internet trolls seem to still think are hot garbage.
For those who have ever drawn or painted, it’s similar to pushing through those first few awkward strokes (pause) where you’re not sure if you’re on your way to a masterpiece or a piece of trash, all while believing that what you’re creating is going to be something you’re proud of. For me, it’s as simple as seeing each photo as part of a bigger picture….my aforementioned “journal” of sorts….focusing on puzzle pieces rather than masterpieces. By pressuring myself less, I’m able to see clearer, and this is precisely the frame of mind I have been in lately.
I have distanced myself from the world of likes and comments, of masquerading like I’m shooting for me with a mind mixed up in what others want to see. Having tapped into a state of clarity in regards to my work, I have found it easier to shoot freely while still being discerning with what I take photos of. Wordsworth referred to these moments as “spots of time”; a sort of “decisive moment” in our minds. Moments that, when captured ideally, instill a sense of fervor and invoke a numbing feeling of nostalgia that leaves us pleasantly paralyzed in our reminiscences. Such strong language for such inconsequential photos, I know.
So why this rambling mess of words? Bored at home on a Friday night listening to Tool and feeling way deeper than usual? Possibly. Seriously, though, yes that’s it exactly it….but I also want to use this blog as a window into who I am as a person, which is reflected in my artistry. It’s a journey, a struggle, a constant battle of wits with myself….and here I am, talking out my thought process for complete strangers like I’m on an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Regis is prodding me for my thoughts on the dilemma between choosing A, C or burning another lifeline to phone a friend.
Now, about the photos… A few years back, I was drawn to a woman in Washington Square Park and asked to take a portrait of her. Her strong frame and part of her beautiful face covered in tattoos, she’s physically the type of person I would hate myself for not capturing. Upon approaching her, the quiet, calm nature with which she conducted herself was an unexpected contrast to her badass look, and it further intrigued me. Maybe it was the mystery born of her introversion, or the desire to know the story behind each tattoo carved in her skin. I wish it were that poetic in reality………….buttttttttt, no. We exchanged Instagram names, kept in touch, realized we are both from the Bronx, linked up to shoot again, fell out of touch for a while, then kept in touch some more, and linked up again. See, pretty damn boring, huh?
These photos are a snapshot of the night, beginning with my trek from Midtown up to her block in South Bronx, a few shots of her as we wandered the streets, and a couple shots from my walk home that night… (The shot of Jasmine sitting on the fire hydrant is a nod to a photo of mine that she loves, of a young Puerto Rican girl standing for a photo while playing in the spray of a fire hydrant. We came across the hydrant, and thought it would be cool to “re-create” the photo.)
* The term “professional photographer” refers to an actual working professional photographer. If your definition of “professional” is owning a “real camera,” taking pics of Instagram “models,” being “published” in some “magazine” that 5 people own (and they’re all family members of whoever’s magazine it is) and slapping VSCO filters on everything, please refer to section titled “iPhone-wielding Facebook Mommy” for your credentials