What he was talking about was only one type of shooting: call it journalism, documentary photography, spot news photography, interpretative or environmental portraiture – even snapshooting.
Cartier-Bresson was talking about photography of the evanescent, of the here and now. The kind of photography that, in many ways, defines the entire craft, the entire art.
Most photography, but especially this kind, has a tenuous reputation for truth-telling largely because of the camera’s, if not always the photographer’s, ability to record events objectively. In fact photography is unique among the visual arts, not only because a photograph cannot be created from (sometimes clouded or prejudiced) memory, but because the subject of the photograph – and not really the photographer – determines absolutely what that depiction will be.
That is to say, Richard Avedon may trip the shutter when he makes a portrait, but the subject’s face and surroundings are what actually burn the image onto the film. Of course, Avedon brings hugely important elements into the equation as well: his talent for composition, for lighting, and of course, his sense of when his subject’s expression becomes, for Avedon, “the picture.”
~Fra nk Van Riper from his article Creating The Decisive Moment
A photographer must be prepared to catch and hold on to those elements which give distinction to the subject or lend it atmosphere.~Bill Brandt
Happy weekend bloggers!
It goes without saying that if you want to photograph a festival, you should know what the festival is all about! You should know how it originated, what it commemorates, and what the significance is, in relation to the current times. Armed with this knowledge, you could decide your “workflow” – the series of pictures you should take to record the event without missing out on any important picture taking opportunity. In other words, do your homework and plan out your strategy rather than going to the festival and then taking photos haphazardly. If you are new to the location or if you have not covered such a festival earlier, it would be wise to ask the locals about the path of the procession, the type of ceremonial floats, the time for the event to start, and whatever other information that you think will help you in your picture-taking project. If you can check out the details with the organizing committee, so much the better, as the information could be more specific, and more reliable. All this takes time, so make sure you don’t think of ‘what-am-I-supposed-to- do’ at the last minute. Remember though, a festival may not necessarily have a parade and floats.
~Rohinton Mehta from his article How To Photograph Festivals
These are headless and sometimes bodiless shots that you will not find in any well-meaning photojournalism or travel publication. It will not pass the scrutiny of photo editors. And as a photographer you know it’s a no-no to chop off the head. Even casual snapshooters know that. Of the many Philippine festivals I’ve covered, I take in the big picture most of the time, that’s how you photograph precision, choreography and action of performers and participants. But I also have this tendency to zoom in on body parts and details particularly lower extremities, capturing the dynamics of the human form during still moments or split-second movement. These images from the Dinagyang Festival may not find its way into magazines but heck, they sure found their way into my photographic mind and heart. The non-traditional can also be fascinating.
To be fair, some of my “traditional” shots of festivals have been used in in-flight magazines and travel websites.
It’s the subject matter that counts. I’m interested in revealing the subject in a new way to intensify it. A photo is able to capture a moment that people can’t always see. ~Harry Callahan
This to me is the joy of informal people photography – being able to capture pure, spontaneous, unrehearsed, off-the-cuff moments of genuine expressions, such as in this series of images taken at a local water festival.