The career retrospective of Cartier- Bresson’s work opened in Chicago, last week, and I was waiting in line! Well worth the wait. The show shouldn’t be missed. All of my blabbing about the decisive moment was on display in about 200 images on the walls at the Art Institute. Every image was a decisive moment. It seems that he, like Forrest Gump or Zelig was present at every major world event in his lifetime, and always was able to capture the essence of the event. From images of world leaders to an image of two dogs humping on the street (which would have been a throwaway photo were it not for the third dog looking over his shoulder in jealousy at the other two), he captured moments in time with perfect composition (remember, no cropping allowed).
It reminded me of an assignment that was given out to a photographer each week by the Chicago Reader in the 1980’s. It was called 1000 Words. The deal was, you had to submit one photograph that told a complete story. The caption could only have the date of the image and the address- the photo had to tell the story. All for $100.00. The first time I got the assignment, I spent several sleepless nights trying to formulate a plan. At the last minute, I was invited to sit in the bleachers at opening day of the Cubs season. I got out there to find heaps of snow in the seating area. Took a photo and I was done. Pure dumb luck!! The image later ran in a calendar of the best of 1000 Words, so I guess I was on the right track. That assignment taught me how difficult it was to tell a story in photographic images. A lesson that was tipped in last week by seeing some of the most beautiful images in photographic history on the walls of a museum in downtown Chicago. I hope looking at the exhibit will make me a better photographer!