The latest Magnum square print sale is now live and it’s a good one! Magnum photographers were asked to select a single image to illustrate their understanding of the decisive moment as popularized by Henri Cartier Bresson. The result is an amazing collection of images from some of the top photographers on the planet and signed prints will only set you back $100 bucks! Hit the jump for more info!
Magnum Square Print Sale – Magnum Photographers Reflect On The Decisive Moment
The idea of the decisive moment originated as the title of Henri Cartier Bresson’s iconic book and was quickly adopted as the holy grail of street photography. It describes not only the when and why of a photograph but also defines the very art of its creation.
Magnum Photos asked their photographers to pick a single image the defined the concept of the decisive moment for them and these images are available in a limited edition of signed archival prints that you can pick up for only $100 bucks each.
Here’s my personal shopping list from this Magnum Square Print Sale:
Probably, no photographer has influenced me for as long as Henri Cartier-Bresson. For some 50 years, I’ve been drawn to his early, pre-war work with its surreal ambiguity. However, ever since I first saw my father’s copy of The Decisive Moment in the late1960s, I’ve been uneasy with the title. The notion of a ‘decisive moment’ seems just too pat, too unpoetic for such a complicated vision. Years later, it was gratifying to discover thatthe original French title was Images à la Sauvette—’Images on the Sly’—a humbler notion more in the spirit of his early street photographs, work that embraces the mystery and uncertainty of collaborating with the world. ‘It is the photo that takes you,’ as he once said.There are many photographs of mine that have ‘taken’ me. I chose Havana, 1993 because Cuba, then, seemed suspended in time, echoing the feel of the Spanish
streets in the 1930s that Cartier-Bresson photographed so memorably. I suspect that the Cartier-Bresson I knew would have been skeptical of the color of this homage to him—but I’d like to think his younger, surrealistic self would have at least appreciated the two boys in the background with that soccer ball hovering overhead, out of reach forever.
Few of my images fit with the common interpretation of the Cartier-Bresson decisive moment. I think this is because, for the most part, my work develops in the long form, the narrative unfolding through a series of images. Even though, I guess one could argue that every time a photographer presses the shutter it is a decisive moment or instance, in which they take a some- what mysterious set of decisions that lead to making a picture. This particular image is a decisive moment because it captures an extremely fleeting moment. I was taking pictures from one of the bridges that connects El Paso and Ciudad Juárez when I saw something move through the corner of my eye. Just then, two young Mexican men, who had tried to jump the fence to enter the US, ran as fast as they could back to the Mexican side of the border after having been spotted by the US border patrol.
I took this image at the Black Sea beachfront in the city of Sukhumi in the unrecognized republic of Abkhazia. Tourists and locals were hanging out picnicking and bathing. When people are hurling themselves from old shipwrecks I don’t necessarily think, ‘Oh, here is a decisive moment’. Actually, I often don’t think so much at all when I photograph, it is more gut instinct working, just lots of reactions. For me, the thinking and categorizing is better done before and after the actual photographing. Anyways, I don’t think too much about the classic concept of the decisive moment, for me, they are just moments. Some are complicated, where lots of elements come together; some are simple low-hanging fruit; some are long, drawn-out sluggish affairs; others are over in a split second. Whatever it is, the shutter had better be open at the right time.
This image recalls a moment in my own life; it puts me in the shoes of myself before I moved abroad in my thirties, just starting my career as a photographer, so is this how I saw the US back then? Having returned to make new images after almost a decade away, it begs me to consider how I’ve changed, how my perceptions of this country have changed, and how image-making has changed. This is one of the few early images of mine that have stayed with me over time.”
David Alan Harvey
The decisive moment can take a lot of clock time. This particular decisive moment took two weeks of my time. The summer foam party at the club Amnesia in Ibiza, Spain only happens once per week. It took me seeing it once to know what I should do. At firstI thought I should get in the mess, which I did. I got some nice pictures there but I thought getting above it would be better to get the feeling of mass hedonism or like Dante’s Inferno. It took some permission getting to get up into the lighting rig in the ceiling of the club. In the end I shot literally one Kodachrome film frame that looks like this. The club lights flashed multiple colors at random and only this one had the feel and tone I wanted. Two weeks of time literally down to two seconds of opportunity. Worth it all, of course.
Michael Christopher Brown
Sometimes I’m able to capture a decisive moment and other times, call it slow or lazy, I’m just dumbfounded by what is in front of me and am either late or I completely forget about photography and take no picture. In this case, I was lucky the dumbfoundedness allowed me to at least be late and to take a ‘more or less’ decisive moment. It is ‘more or less’ decisive because when I consider the decisive moment I of course think of Henri Cartier-Bresson and a photograph with a subject engaged in a moment that lasts a fraction of a second. In this image there is a moment with the street barber and his tools, but it is secondary to the boy’s expression, the subject, which continued for at least a minute. From the time I first spotted him amid a flurry of shoppers during rush hour in downtown Dalian, China, until after the photograph was taken he was still as a stone, just like this.
This is the swimming club in Brighton, who go and swim in the sea, every day of the year, regardless of the weather (wetsuits are discouraged). You can see, here, the waves were so fierce, they were experiencing their own ‘Decisive Moment’ as they pondered if they dare go into the sea or not. They did eventually sneak in, but a long leisurely dip was not on the cards that particular day.
I often followed this man and his rooster on the edge of town. He strolled around, smoked his cigar, talked to his pet. What the afternoon light connects is a minute peak of the action between the two.
Most of my shooting on the streets relies on chance: how light interacts with the streets, the city, and the people, the decisive moments that I see. The ones that really excite me, I don’t see; only the camera truly sees them. Always chasing light and time.
I made this image on a hilltop near Bethlehem. It was a moment that was there then was gone. I guess that is what Henri Cartier-Bresson was talking about?
The Magnum square print sale happens a few times a year and is your chance to pick up an archival, singed print from your favorite Magnum photographer for only $100 bucks. Images are printed from digital negatives on 6×6″ Fuji Crystal Archive Matte Paper. These are real chromogenic photographic prints on archival paper that is designed to last!
In total, there are images from 74 photographers in this edition of the Magnum Square Print sale. The sale runs from June 6th 9:00am EST to June 10th 6:00PM EST so get credit card ready and head over to the Magnum store!
I’ve been following the Magnum square print sales since they started and I really think this is the best selection of any sale to date. There are so many great images that it’s going to be hard to pick just one. But keep in mind that these are very small prints that are meant to be experienced up close. The small (but growing) section of my wall devoted to Magnum square prints makes me happy every time I look at it.
But apart from buying any of these prints this is an excellent opportunity to working Magnum photographers talk about their understanding of the decisive moment. From Alex Webb’s realization that photographs are a collaboration with the world to Christopher Anderson’s shoulder shrugging stab at understanding moments that quickly disappear. There’s so many interesting takes on the concept that it’s worth your time to simply browse through the images and read what each photographer has to say.
But enough of my talking… I’ve got shopping to do!
What’s your take on the latest Magnum square print sale? A great way to get a signed image from your favorite Magnum photographer? Or are the prints just too small to interest you? Post your ideas in the comments below and keep the conversation going!