Photography is about moments, captured in a specific location, showing a specific scenery in a unique light. Bringing all of these things together – when we press the shutter – the camera captures a moment time.
Sometimes that one moment is referred to as the decisive moment.
And the interpretation is that the decisive moment is something happening in the world and we are the witnesses of that moment.
That the world moves towards this moment and it is our task to catch it like a butterfly in a net. And there is some truth to that. Some moments, some light, some cloud formation, some body language, that fleeing smile on our kid’s faces – they are there and gone. They exist in moments, just visible for a second, and then they change again into something different. If we fail to catch that moment you might say: „The decisive moment is gone.‟, like a loss, something we have not achieved, something we failed to do. But there are millions of other moments ahead of us, and there is always the chance that they are even more decisive than the moment we just missed.
I prefer another interpretation of that phrase: „the decisive moment‟, because it is us to decide on how to paint this moment. We decide what to photograph. We decide where to stand. We decide what to include and what to exclude. We judge the light. We set the depth of field. We set the shutter speed. These are the tools we have and to work with. And they are far more important than what the world around presents to us.
The decisive moment ist the moment when we decide to press the shutter. It tells more about what is happening inside us than about what is happening in the world.
Everything we do in photography – if we do it consciously – tells a lot about what is going on inside us, from the choice of the subject to technical settings, post production and presentation. Everything there is more about us than about the world outside.
The decisive moment indeed is when you press the shutter. But not because you catch the fleeing moment, but because the moment resonates within you. That is decisive.