Touching Moment vs Decisive Moment

Inside the Artic Circle, 1967: Eskimo child chasing ball. [photo by: Don Rutledge]

What a moment this is of a little boy playing with a ball. No matter where you are from in the world, this captures a moment of joy that we all experienced playing ball.

“Photography is not like painting,” Henry Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post in 1957. “There is a creative fraction of a second when taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative,” he said. “Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”

Cartier-Bresson published a book in 1952 called The Decisive Moment. In the preface, he quoted Cardinal de Retz, “Il n’y a rien Dans ce monde qui n’ait un moment decisive” [“There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment”].

Shortly after coming to the Home Mission Board, Don spent six weeks photographing inside the Artic Circle, Alaska, in 1967. This photo was taken as Don, with two volunteer workers, visited an Eskimo house. So happy was the family to see their friends, everyone ignored Don’s click-click-click. {photo by: Don Rutledge]

If you have studied photography, you will know about Henry Cartier-Bresson and The Decisive Moment. If you haven’t, you will most likely have no clue what it is all about.

Today I was hit with the problem that when we as photographers start talking to our clients on our terms rather than their terms, we lose them and often create a divide between us.

The Citadel Recognition Weekend in Charleston, SC. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 | Sport, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 3200, ƒ/8, 1/4000]

When talking to the public about capturing a “Decisive Moment,” I think we should say we are about capturing a “Touching Moment.”

You will hear people say “What a Touching Moment,” more than ever, and hear them say what a “Decisive Moment” is. You will see what I am talking about if you Google the two.

Philip Newberry has no hands or feet from meningitis, with Matilda, a neighbor’s cat. [photo by: Stanley Leary]

The Decisive Moment search yields all the stuff about photography, and the Touching Moment will turn up photos and videos about emotional moments.

While the Decisive Moment is more than just a Touching Moment, you still take time to educate your audience about what you are talking about and, in the exact moment, never give it the justice it needs.

Father Flor Maria Rigoni is a missionary with the San Carlos Scalabrini and works in the town of Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico.

I only suggest using “Touching Moments” as something the average person understands more than trying to educate them on what I call a “photographic term.”

I am often guilty of digging in my heels and trying to explain my position. If you want to win people over, learn their perspective and talk about your position from their perspective and not yours.