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The expressive moment in street photography


She suddenly realised.

Carefree.

Out on the streets with my camera I find that I am often hunting for something which I call "the expressive moment".

The expressive moment is not the same as HCB's decisive moment. I also do not use it in the context of the writings about the expressionists. To me it is simply the moment captured through the lens when there is a clear expression of mood, emotion and feeling which can be easily read by the viewer looking at the image.

In contrast the decisive moment can be an image which captures something which is simply visually in perfect balance and harmony but does not have a powerful inherent emotion.

I see a lot of street photography which to me looks haphazard and I can't help wondering why the shot was taken as there's nothing special about it.

The two images above capture the expressive moment for me. The emotion, feeling and mood are clear. To use another phrase: the images speak to the viewer. And that is what I value most, and seek in my photography.

Cheers,
Paul
www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Comments

advman said…
Well said and certainly a goal to set. I'm not a people's photographer, and in my images, when there are people, they are there as part of the geometry, no more prominent than some graffiti or the lines of tramway rails. On the other hand, photographing people is somewhere on my agenda, so are there any techniques and tricks you want to share?

I mean, these two images are certainly good, even very good, but basically what you say boils down to "Make good images!", and that alone is not overly helpful, isn't it? What do you do? Simply have the camera ready and wait for the "expressive moment" as others wait for the decisive one? What is the story behind these images? Did you "catch" them? Arrange them?

Andreas
Tam. said…
I can see why you would have had the second photo framed in the viewfinder, though the first seems one that is a spur of the moment capture.

I'm just getting into street photography so I'm curious as to why you had the first shot framed ready to shoot? Was there a sign that this woman was about to look, for example, a call made to her or something similar? The image is fantastic and very strong in composition, though I honestly can't figure out how you would have predicted the "decisive moment.

I hope I've made my query clear enough! I found it difficult to express the questions regarding the intentions, so I hope they're understandable. I certainly agree with you about some shots lacking a specific compositional element, so I'd really appreciates some insight as to how best achieve it.
Bill Gatesman said…
These are very nice street images, Paul. Not only do they capture the expressive moment, but the second one in particular is magical in the way you have captured the light.

As you draw the distinction between your "expressive moment" and Cartier Bresson's "decisive moment", I am reminded of the image in your recent post concerning "Design in Photography". You suggest that in Bresson's street shots these design elements prevail.

I love it that you place such a high priority on capturing these expressions of human emotion. It makes your pictures come alive.

Thanks for sharing these wonderful images.

Bill Gatesman
www.wmgphoto.com
www.wmgphotoblog.com
Paul Indigo said…
In reply to your question advman, I took all of these shots spontaneously. The joy of street photography is to capture these expressive moments without intervention.
Cheers,
Paul

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