My Decisive Moment

July 11, 2013 6 Comments »

Photography quote

My mother has said that she could never pick a favorite among her children. This is the pretty standard reaction of most parents. And since I don’t have any kids, I luckily don’t have to deal with this dilemma or question. However, in some ways I could consider writing and photography as my kids – lord knows that it is where I spend all of my time trying to nurture and grow them. But I’ve always said that I can’t really pick a favorite among them. I love writing up these thoughts and ideas and forming them into a story that is (hopefully) compelling enough to make you want to experience it yourself. I also love capturing a moment and a vision through the lens, meticulously composing a shot, and working to try to tell a story without words.

Writing – photography, I never thought I could choose a favorite.

Decisive Moment

Henri Bartier Bresson’s famous ‘Decisive Moment’ (right) studied by photographers all over the world.

However recently in Stockholm, I had a sense of clarity to this question that I’ve never really had before. As I was staring at the work of the master of the ‘Decisive Moment’ in photography, I had a decisive moment myself.

“The decisive moment, it is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

This is the definition used by the man who coined the term. Henri Cartier Bresson is famous for bringing us the decisive moment in photography. A easier to digest definition may be:

“A candid photograph taken at the precise moment which defines or illustrates the entire story or action.”

As I walked around the Fotografiska Museum along the Stockholm waterfront I felt something as I looked at the work of Henri Cartier Bresson, Ruud van Empel, and Anna Claren. I stood and stared at each picture soaking in every contrast, every color, and every pixel with a sense of awe. I realized just how much and why I love photography – it is the challenge of capturing a single moment, a moment that tells a complete story. A moment that makes you think, a moment that you will never get back.

Quote Henri Cartier Bresson

Sometimes I get obsessed with aging and time passing too quickly – and for me photography is the only thing that can stop time. Freeze the thought, the smell, the look, the story. Some people are better at capturing that moment than others, that’s why we have professional photographers, amateurs, and enthusiasts. Some people are brilliant at capturing a moment in time – Henri Cartier Bresson is one of them.

As I walked through the exhibition of his life work, I was stunned at how deeply his images could evoke emotion from me. Some of them about brought me to tears. Some of them made me smile. Some made my stomach tense up. But all of them left me wanting more. They touched me deep within and made me contemplate life and time. He was photographing the people of the world years ago when the world was quite different – when travel was novel. As I looked at his images all I could think about was how much I yearned to have that world back. The innocence, the unknown, the newness. I realized that it was this kind of candid travel photography that I love – the kind that I aspire to.

quote henri cartier bresson

The Decisive Moment

In writing they say that you have to read to improve your writing skills. And the same idea applies to photography – you want to improve your photography, then immerse yourself in it and go view people’s work. Unfortunately I rarely follow the reading advice – and I’m sure my writing suffers. However when it comes to photography I take any chance I can to view other people’s work. Even though I was on a tight budget in Stockholm, as soon as I saw there was a Photography Museum (Fotografiska), I knew I would spend any amount it took to go visit.

This realization told me a lot.

I never in my travels have went out of the way to buy or read a book, but photography – it gets me every time. I would have my whole home (if I had one) filled with photography from the world. I would fly places specifically to see the World Press Photo Awards exhibit.

I know the future is often said to be video and I’ve dabbled in it a little bit. However it just isn’t the same for me. Video is different. It spoon feeds you a story and leaves you less room to develop your own.

Nope – after spending the afternoon at the Fotografiska in Stockholm – I knew where my passion was. I have a favorite, and it’s photography.

Fotografiska Exhibit

Fotografiska Exhibit by Ruud van Empel

Stockholm’s museum dedicated to the art of photography also happens to be placed ‘picture’ perfectly for views of Stockholm. The museum building sits along the waterfront with a view of the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and the Tivoli Amusement Park. Exhibitions change throughout the year, but while I was there they had 3 exhibitions that were fabulously curated and all equally different and moving.
The exhibitions are curated in Swedish and in English – plus the museum offers guided tours of the exhibitions. In addition to photography, the building has a gift shop full of photography books and prints. The space has a Bistro on the top floor with large windows that look out over the waterfront. The bistro offers weekend brunch, wine tasting events, concerts, and in the Fall and Spring they even turn the space into a dance club.
If you are in Stockholm for a longer period and have an interest in improving your photography – they offer seminars and workshops by well known professionals.

More Info:
Website –
Open every day . Sunday – Wednesday 9am – 9pm, Thursday – Saturday 9am – 11pm. Subway station Slussen
Stora Tullhuset 22, Stockholm

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