ICP final exercise, Oct 2010 – Maybe #2

I thought this couple made an interesting tableau, with the woman’s arm draped around the guy’s shoulder. But even though it evoked a sense of warm emotions, I ultimately decided that they were just too … relaxed, for lack of a better word … and didn’t display enough “strength” of whatever attraction they felt for each other.


The final exercise in my ICP “Taking It To The Streets” photography class was an interesting one: after watching a DVD presentation of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment, we were sent out during the lunch break to find our own “decisive moment” — that is, we were told to bring back just one photograph that made us say, as Cartier-Bresson said about the photos he took in his own decisive moments, “Yes. Yes, yes, yes!”

When we returned, our individual photos were collected, uploaded to a common computer, and then presented to the group anonymously. We were asked to guess, in advance, which person had taken which photo — based on the “style” or “feeling” that we got from those photos, and also based on what we had learned of each other during two full weekends of presenting and discussing our respective work. It should be emphasized that we six students had never met each other before our class, and had seen only a few dozen photos of each other’s work during the two weekends that we were together.

That made the results all the more interesting: I correctly guessed the “owner” of all six of the photos other than my own; and four of the six other students correctly guessed which one I had taken. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that any one of our photos was necessarily good or bad; it simply indicates that those of us who are moderately serious about our photographic work do tend to have a recognizable style. It may be a style that we want to refine, or emphasize, or change drastically; but just as most us have a well-defined and easily-recognizable “personality” by the time they reach adulthood (if not long before), it also turns out that we have a fairly well-defined photographic style.

With that background, here is the story of how I ended up with my one photo. I decided to walk over to Times Square, a block east, because I figured it would provide a wide variety of interesting people and scenes, one of which I hoped would reveal itself to me as the “yes!” photo. Normally I would take 200-400 photos in the course of an hour, upload all of them to my computer, and then manually winnow them down to 10 or 20 “keepers” — which I would then crop and “tilt” (if they weren’t level), and adjust (in terms of brightness, colors, saturation, etc.). But since we were allowed only to identify a single image on our camera, and have that uncropped, unedited photo presented to the group, I was more cautious — and took only 20 images.

Obviously, there’s no way that I could hope to find and capture an image as great as the ones that led Cartier-Bresson to utter “yes!” (or “oui!”) to himself; and I wasn’t even sure that I would be able to find my own “yes!” photo. Indeed, roughly half of the photos that I took turned out to be “maybe” candidates, from which I eventually selected just one “yes!”. For each of the “maybes,” as well as the one “yes!”, I’ve indicated what drew my attention to it in the first place, and why I eventually rejected or selected it.