About that Decisive Moment

January 23, 2011

The Falling Man
Raising The Flag at Ground Zero

These images are probably the most famous ones to come out of what has become known as September 11th. Both images were shot by photojournalists that we’re at the scene and both have been used to move people in ways that nothing else can. However there is a marked difference between these images. That difference is in the so called “decisive moment”. The whole reason why professional photographers are regarded as, well, professionals. After all, many people would argue that the average consumer with a point and shoot is a mere technician while a professional is an artist. Consumers judge when to take an image purely based on the visual appeal of the moment while a pro takes numerous matters into account. With all that said, I’m betting that more then a few of you reading this are running to google what exactly “the decisive moment” is.
While “The Falling Man” image that you see here was shot as a burst series, the image isn’t repeatable in any traditional sense. Sure the use of photoshop, an actor, along with a large studio and a green screen could probably produce something similar or maybe even of better quality. But that image with that subject in that location was only available for a few short seconds. There were no retakes, no chance to get a better angle or to refocus. The opportunity was there and then it was gone. And in this case not only was the opportunity gone, but so was the subject, the background and the total context.
Now if you look at the most famous image from this event, “Raising The Flag at Ground Zero“, you’ll notice the vast difference. This image is great in that it immediately brings to mind another image “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima“. However it is an image that could of at the time been recreated if someone had wanted too. Though that fact doesn’t really take anything away from the image. The lighting and the perspective allows this image to stand above the rest that we’re taken that historic day.
My question to you after all this is whether or not the “decisive moment” is really all that important. Is the decisive moment only important to sports photogs and photojournalists? Let me know what ya think by leaving a note below.



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