Part 3 Research

‘Traces of Time’

Exercise 3.1 – Freeze



Eadweard Muybridge


The Horse in motion, ‘Animal Locomotion’ series, c.1878 (b/w photo)

Eadweard Muybridge was an English photographer who was born in 1830. When I read about Eadweard in the course materials, I thought that what he achieved in his day was astonishing. To be able to capture the photographs of the horse like he did and to establish that all four of the horse’s legs leave the ground when galloping is truly a breakthrough in movement and motion in itself, as well as photography and the learning of other animals. His photography is well regarded for this and when someone manages to produce the kind of work he has you can see why he is well known within the photography industry. This helped improve shutter speeds to capture motion and is one of the influences that helped this pathway take shape. Although in this day, if you were to look at the sequence above you would probably think ‘great? what is so special about that?’. There are no fancy angles or any of that jazz but the fact this is so historic, photography was yet to take that path. With the history behind the sequence, you can truly appreciate photography and how it has helped in many situations and discovery’s over the years.


Arthur Mason Worthington & Harold Edgerton


Milk Drop Coronet, 1957 (gelatin silver print) – Harold Edgerton

These two artists were mentioned in the course materials also. The reason I have partnered them together for my research though is because they obtain similar characteristics.  Although AM Worthington is regarded as a physicist, he did however produce work to do with shutter. The book ‘The Splash of a Drop’ illustrates images that show a series of drops creating a splash once hitting the surface creating a reaction. To the human eye the reaction is so fast that it is hard for us to study at any depth, but once quicker shutter speeds were created, this helped capture the images you can view in the link below, which shows his book and the series.

Not so long after, Harold Edgerton produced the ‘Milk Drop Coronet’ as you can view above. This image just like those similar to Worthington’s book, show the shutter at a very fast pace, managing to capture the purest of images as they are snapped at that moment in time so fast to create this split-second motion of the milk reacting to the impact, which is not only really amazing, but symmetrical and creating a strange texture. 

This just proves that photography and its limits have been pushed again and for the first time ever, capturing images that even the naked eye cannot capture properly.


Jeff Wall

A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) 1993 by Jeff Wall born 1946

A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) 1993

Jeff Wall captures motion from the late 1980’s and 90’s, but he is still around to this day. His photography, unlike the previous artists I have mentioned, is from more of a modern era and one that has been within the last 50 years. In the image above, you can see that this image has been created out in the countryside. It shows a gust of wind seemingly taking the paper out of the persons hand on the far left. This makes the image look strange as the gust of wind is invisible and is not a physically seen with the eye. The photo is in colour and uses a fast shutter to be able to create a sharp shot of the situation as it happened as this image can never be re-created to its exact snap at that moment in time. With colour and the fast shutter, this image is interesting to view as there are a lot of leading questions as ‘who are they?’ or ‘what is the paper?’ and the purpose of the image. I think that it is an interesting shot, with or without a reason.
This kind of work can help influence me, when it comes to my turn to do a shoot for Exercise 3.1 as I can see that this image is a representation of the exercise and the shutter speed almost plays a ‘freeze’ frame effect to the image.

Philip-Lorca DiCorcia

I looked into the video link below, presented to me by the OCA in the materials. I found this video of Philip-Lorca DiCorcia very, very interesting.
Without insane terminology and great depth, he describes one of his shoots and how he managed to get himself in trouble. He talks about his decisions, which I think is very important, because in photography, we all have to make individual decisions. Some may not always be the right ones, but it is like poker, you have to gamble. Whether it pays out is a different story. But his subjects and the way he approached his project was very interesting. Instead of just lining up models and trying to take their images, he did it without permission and stepped out of his comfort zone. He did something (you’re not really supposed to do, but not illegal) and took images of people going about their everyday lives and then reproduces them. This sits as a collection, and a collection that represents freeze, represents motion and movement. He didn’t interact with them and just took their images as they came to where he was focusing on.
This is not something someone would focus on, day in, day out and feel it is a unique subject. In photography, there are many unique subjects that people seize the opportunity to create content for, which is very cool and interesting with reasoning.
Seeing the video made me more aware that I cannot just shoot water droplets, or everyday walking and that I would have to push myself to capture something fast, quick and without them knowing that I am doing it. To put this altogether to create content that enables me to complete the exercise knowing I have tested myself and my photography skills.
Below you can view one of his images in the link. The body of work for me seems unique and rather cool and abstract.


Henri Cartier-Bresson


The Link above provides a link to a website showing some of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work, the majority of the work contains motion and movement. He was not an artist mentioned by the OCA, but having previously known him from past studies, I instantly thought of him when this exercise came up.
One of his most famous images he took was the one of him on the stairs, waiting for that moment of some movement to happen, so he could capture it without the person knowing that they were in it. Fortunately for him, a figure on a bike went past in which he seized his opportunity and managed to capture him in motion.
Cartier-Bresson was a very talented photographer and movement he captured well, without being in the movement, or in front of it, but by the side, through a hole, upstairs, somewhere no one can see him. This is what makes his work well known and what makes him a good idol for my shoot.


Exercise 3.2 – Trace


Robert Capa


FRANCE. 1944. Normandy. Omaha Beach. The first wave of American troops lands at dawn.

Robert Capa, is one of the most, if not the most well-known war photographers ever. For me he captures movement to the best of his ability whilst being in the middle of a war zone. Some of the images he takes are so powerful, this could be a life changing event for years to come and some of the soldiers captured in the images are the last time they will ever be recorded by anyone, before they go out to die. Although he could have used fast shutter, and stayed still, he could have been shot firstly and also the shots are unplanned, fresh and trying to capture the moments as they come, creating this effect with the exposure, making them slightly blurry, making it hard to focus on some of the figures. The image above is one of his most famous and as you can see the deeper you look into the image, the blurrier the figure, with the chap closest to you, in the best focus. He isn’t too worried about framing and positioning, he is documenting the event, whilst trying to stay alive.


Robert Frank


Belle Isle, Detroit, neg. 1955-56

 Robert Frank is a very famous and very good photographer. His images are very good at representing a number of issues in America and are very powerful and can portray many different opinions. I feel his name would have been better in the movement exercises rather than traces of time as I feel that his images were not very long exposures, or very blurry from fast movement. (Unless I haven’t discovered them) but generally speaking he is a very influential photographer because of the nature of his images and what they contain. 

Hiroshi Sugimoto


Cinerama Dome, 1993

I am a fan of Hiroshi’s work, but not this particular body. I like the idea behind the shoot and what the results could have been, but when it is just a white screen, I feel that this does not give me the answers I was hoping for. With long exposures, it is all well and fun when you capture a long exposure that looks distorted and shows movement, but for me, unfortunately this looks like there has been no movement, even though he has sat through 2 hours of moving picture.
The set of images gives a sense of loneliness because there is no one else there and also gives off a creepy effect with the screen just being white, but I feel that these shots do not represent movement in its prime.

Michael Wesely

Michael Wesely is a great example of movement, and time tracing. His images use ridiculously long exposures, some over the course of a few years!!! This shows how places change and how evolution is developing and how places get more compact, busy etc. and how light works when the shutter is open for that period of time. I think this gives of a great effect on the image, made naturally by the camera. It is almost like he has made an image composite and masked two or more images together and then lowered the opacity. This kind of work would be very interesting to experiment with, not that I can do it in my course anyway as I don’t have years, months or weeks to complete this task.  But his images combine time, the past and the present and how development changes a landscape and how overtime, things move about creating a trail where they have been. The images he produces are really the definition of time tracing. 


Maarten Vanvolsem


Although I am not familiar with Vanvolsem’s work, I can clearly see that he has various images that include movement. This one especially caught my eye as the image is panoramic and is highly distorted. It is as if the panorama whilst being taken has captured data of the woman in yellow walking across the panorama. This makes the image look stretched. But if the image was stretched then the surroundings would be. But because the surroundings are not moving, they are not. This image gives off an unusual effect because of the movement. You can see the journey the person has taken from left to right.  But you cannot see the person as a whole figure, it is as if the camera has been too slow to capture the fast movement and has stretched into this blob. Technology is able to create images like this which can tell a story from one place to another. Although the image makes it distort.

Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express (1994)

Chungking Express Movie, 1994

The scene in the clip above is mentioned in the course materials and is of Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express movie. The scene is the opening one of the movie and shows a series of shots of a man being chased and a woman also walking through the busy streets of Hong Kong. Although this clip shown was created many years ago, and could now be improved with various technology, the thought behind this scene was a real twist in movies from the 1900’s. The fact that it is a fast-moving scene with slow shutter combined, create this fast but slow effect, almost as if you were there, but intoxicated. In reality you would not view the scene like this as it would be fast moving, but with the slow shutter creates a lag in the moving image, making the motion blur and to distort it.
I think the idea of this is cool and gives a great effect within the movie and how it is used, and through the scene. If you were to pause the film at any given time within that scene, most likely it will be blurred as it constantly is when running through the scene.

Francesca Woodman


Space?, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978 1975-8 by Francesca Woodman 1958-1981

Space², Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978

Francesca Woodman’s work was very deep and dark because of her life and the movement within her images used in rough locations. Her life turned into a mess and she expressed this through her photography and her motion photographs, which seemed to have little meaning in my eyes, but left an emptiness waiting to be fulfilled with a reason for her images. Her body of work compliments each other in each series with similar style images but leaves an emptiness with them at the same time as there is only one strange random person using motion in each image. Her death may have impacted the way that the images are portrayed to the viewer because of this event and I don’t know if they would have got recognition if her tragedy never occurred. For me, these are a perfect example of motion, and blur, combining simple movements with time, creating this distortion within the image. As you can see from her feet, they are grounded and do not move if at all whilst exposed to the shutter, but the top half of her body seems blurred, violently. So much so, you cannot recognise who the figure is by identification and is almost a silhouette. The background is plain and still so that the movement in the midground can be noticed without distraction. The surroundings help give mystery to the image, and the meaning as it all seems odd that you have a motion and a figure, but no direct meaning. Also, the surroundings are plain and have no connection with the figure. Without colour, this adds to the context in which it can be read. 


Exercise 3.3 – What Matters Is To Look

Henri Cartier-Bresson

The image taken from the link above, is one of the most famous images of recent times. It is mentioned in the course materials for this project and is produced by one of the most famous artists of all time. 
It’s quite spectacular how he has captured the figure leaping. The figure is in mid-air and you can see his reflection on the water also. This image was taken in 1932 and was seen as a very interesting and powerful shot of that era. Where the figure is located in the image is interesting because he is fairly far over to the right which makes him look like as if he is trying to leap out of the photo and trying to get away from being the main subject in the photo. The angle this has been taken at is interesting because it is not from any fancy angle and has been taken without much consideration for the angle. The figure is slightly blurred and looks like a silhouette which gives a sense of mystery to the image as you don’t know why he is leaping or where he is going, or who he is. It is a very strange and mysterious image because of this. 

Research Point

Watch the Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary ‘L’amour de court’ (‘Just plain love’, 2001) available on Vimeo: [accessed 19/01/18]

Write up your research on the decisive moment in your learning log taking care to give a proper account of the three differing views offered above, and any further research you’ve undertaken independently. What do you feel personally about the decisive moment as a visual strategy, or just as a way to take pictures? Conclude your post with your own perspective on the debate at this point in time.


The Decisive Moment 

After reading the various articles connected to the course materials and watching the Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary, I can see from various angles the meaning of the decisive moment to all artists & writers.

I can see where it may be more of a cliché rather than a reality and I can see why sometimes the decisive moment is all it takes to make an image, rather than the rest of the components of the image.

In the first article which looks at photographs by Paul Graham in ‘The Present’, analysed by Collin Pantall, Collin expresses how Paul Graham want us to see the opposite of the decisive moment and ‘the spectacle of the urban experience’. He continues by saying that he as the audience receives something else, moments that are ‘indecisive’ and that he ‘doesn’t really know what he is meant to be looking at or for’. There is no clear objective to this body of work, no clear outcome that defines what he has done. To me his images seem slightly random, vague.

(Collin Pantall, The Present Review, Paragraph 3, PHOTO-EYE, 2012)

Collin goes on to write ‘But Graham doesn’t isolate and iconicize his subjects, instead he remakes them in his own image.’ Graham does not isolate any of his subjects and if you look at his body of work it is very broad and reparative and shows people going about their everyday lives, but is not particularly focused on one person, or a group but more just taken a random picture, not taking into consideration much.

(Collin Pantall, The Present Review, Paragraph 6, PHOTO-EYE, 2012)

He is trying to show us something else, but you as the viewer cannot seem to pinpoint it as the images show not much, nothing decisive enough within his body of work to show a moment that is non decisive.



When Zouhair Ghazzal talks about the decisive moment, I can see more on his level than the approach Paul Graham was trying to give it. Ghazzal talks about how it is more of a cliché and how in modern society nothing is ever decisive just more ‘reparative’.

‘Any object, moment, event, and body—could be the target of the photographic image, an order is needed to reduce the flux of images to their most relevant ones. The decisive moment is therefore that infinitely small and unique moment in time which cannot be repeated, and that only the photographic lens can capture.’

(Zohair Ghazzal, ‘the indecisiveness of the decisive moment’, Paragraph 1,  Zohair Ghazzal, 2004)

This quote really caught my attention because he is spot on. The decisive moment, is meant to be that one moment captured in time, something that can never be repeated, such as a stunning goal in football. Not someone walking the streets, but a moment that is unique and cannot be recreated to perfection.  Whereas modern day photographers try to stage and recreate moments that are iconic and are of a decisive moment in time.

He goes on to express about meaning and how not all photographs of the ‘decisive moment’ are meaningful and represent a decisive moment, using Walker Evans work as an example, he writes:

‘Even Evans’ famous photographs of the New York metro passengers of the 1930s, secretly shot with a camera hidden beneath his coat, have something else into them beyond that decisive moment that would be revealed into each one of those faces. With the New York metro photographs Evans invented serial photography: taken each one on its own, each face might autonomously expose something decisive about it; but their overall meaning, however, is divulged only in relation to one another. Once we look at all those austere photographs as a complete series, the decisive nature of each one vanishes into the whole.’

(Zohair Ghazzal, ‘the indecisiveness of the decisive moment’, Paragraph 2, Zohair Ghazzal, 2004)

Ghazzal is very critical in photographers work when it does come down to the decisive moment, and feels that it isn’t the same anymore or that the standards aren’t being met to qualify as a decisive moment.

I think what he says is interesting, how it can go from decisive to non-decisive when viewed as collection and how it can have that impact on the viewer.



The documentary was fascinating and very interesting to get various accounts from all kinds of backgrounds and a few things that some of them said really caught my attention regarding the decisive moment and the meaning of it.

Klavdij Sluban quotes at 10:20 ‘portraits are interesting, observation is important. Each photo should reflect an instant of your life’

(Klavdij Sluban, ‘L’amour tout court’, Dir. Raphael O’Bryne, 2001)

This is very important because photographs, portrait especially should represent, in my opinion a significant situation in your life, say a portrait of you shaking hands with someone, for a business deal, not just a random moment in your life, but something that reflects and is meaningful in that period of time.

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s moment in the documentary where he discusses the image of the silhouette leaping is very interesting and even though it mentions it at the start of the project, but what he says really made me think ‘it’s always luck’ he quotes, which kind of throws you off, because generally speaking most things you have to be trained in, or talented at, but he says that it is luck. I agree with this to a certain extent because he is right, sometimes it is down to luck, if you’re in the right place and the right time, but I feel technique and knowledge also go a long way in photography.

(Henri Cartier-Bresson, ‘L’amour tout court’, Dir. Raphael O’Bryne, 2001)

In the documentary Paolo Beschi says:

‘I have to be ready to put the whole thing together, so that when I start when I make this gesture, to start off the music something is released. Like a camera Shutter. When it is released something unique is created. It comes into being at that moment and can never be repeated identically.’

(Paolo Beschi, ‘L’amour tout court’, Dir. Raphael O’Bryne, 2001)

Although he is a musician, he is spot on. I could not agree more with him and his thinking and the comparison to photography. What he says models the ‘decisive moment’. The decisive moment, has to be unique and it has to be something that can never be ‘repeated identically’. To me, many photographers feel that they have shot a decisive moment, they have made history and captured something, when really their photograph merely shows anything decisive. I feel that Beschi has an understanding of the uniqueness of the moment and how that no matter how hard you try to recreate that moment, it is impossible. There are times where it is simple to recreate an image, but that image, although may have movement and a moment, within it, it is not decisive because of is nature.


Personally, I feel that it is both a visual strategy and a way to take photographs. Simply because photographers would see it as a way to take photographs, by trying to capture the decisive moment, but will see it also as a strategy, for the more complex and serious photographers. So, for me, it can me either, technically speaking it is a way to take photographs, but also is a strategy.



© Lewis.Gibson.Photography.2019

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