Friday, April 23, 2010


I promise that I am not turning The Ham into a photography blog, however, I am really excited about the 365 Project, so bear with me. You know you can follow my pictures here. Our group of budding photographers has expanded, so if you would like to follow everyone along, here are the links for Nell, Emily, Courtney and Bryn. (And if you are reading this and secretly hankering to join us, let me know).

Now, a few weeks ago, before this photo-a-day madness consumed my life, Dan and I went to see Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at MOMA. In case you don't know, he's practically the founding father of modern photography. I was first introduced to his work in journalism school. Then I saw this wonderful photography exhibit in Croatia, and since then I have gotten his photography books from the library and studied his shots. It was exciting to see his prints in person despite the annoying museum crowds.

His whole thing is "the decisive moment" which he defined as "the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression." I love this style of photography because everything looks so natural and candid, and yet the composition is so beautifully put together as if it were a painting. He makes it look so easy:

Here, everyone is staggered just so. The entire boat is in view. Look at that pretty shadow the boat is making in the water. The guy's pouring the wine. The lighting is beautiful. Everyone is wearing white which contrasts everything else so nicely. This looks like a Renoir painting to me. Also, it's like if he took the picture one second later, it wouldn't have been just right. Someone would have moved their arm or the wine would have spilled or something. He caught it at just right the moment.

I, on the other hand, am not so good at the decisive moment. I try, I really do. Sometimes I think I see it, but I get too excited. I fumble with my camera. I miss it a second too late. My pictures look sloppy at the edges. Sure, there is photo editing, but the thrill for me is to get it just right, in the camera, at the moment, just like Cartier-Bresson did. I will continue to practice.

I feel nervous taking pictures of strangers on the street, especially with my monster camera, with one exception: tourists. I love taking pictures of tourists. Maybe because I have a special place in my heart for tourists because I love to be one, but they are so fun to watch. They walk slow. Their facial expressions are either happy or confused as they gawk at the tall buildings, at maps, at the sights. They dress differently than most New Yorkers so they naturally stick out in pictures. Best of all, they are completely oblivious. Before this project started, I have sometimes thought about creating a photography series about tourists. Maybe I will.

I was in midtown yesterday for an interview, so I decided to stop by Rockefeller Center to get some tourist shots. With a camera around my neck, I blended in perfectly. I blatantly took pictures of people and no one noticed--they just thought I was taking bad pictures of the gold Prometheus statue. Some people even asked me to take their picture with their own cameras. Other people tried to get out of my way as I made my shot. (No! You stay right there!)

With people milling about, it was incredibly hard to get the picture I wanted, the decisive moment. I started to get a rhythm and getting excited that I was coming close and then my camera battery died. I was so bummed. I will be back in this area next week so expect for there to be a second round of this. I hope I get my shot then.

Day 6: 4/22/10
Rockefeller Center

That guy in the corner is looking at me and thinking, I'm on to you. Love it!


Susan said...

Yvonne, I love your project! I should join in, as I am reminded often about my expensive camera that I "never" use.
Keep up the good work

Wayne said...

I like this one - if pick a spot like this that always has people and every time you pass it take a few photos, you'll find some decisive moments :)

Two Princes and a Dragon said...

I so want to see this exhibit! Saw the ads.