Those of you who followed my Flickr have undoubtedly noticed just what a surge in my passion for photography came from this trip to Wales. What I wanted to share in this chapter is one particular experience which fits the notion of “l’instant decisi
f”, or “decisive moment
“, introduced to the world of photography by Henri Cartier-Bresson. To avoid being considered a show-off, I should note that Cartier-Bresson advised to only take a shot, literally, at that very decisive moment, whereas I took a picture of this shelter on Llandudno Promenade a few times before I got it right.
It all started when I was walking from the Grand Hotel towards Craig-y-Don. These shelters stand along the entire Promenade, and the first time I took a notice of it, the shelter was used in its proper way, as you can see on the left. I remember that I was actually attracted by a man who sat in the middle section of the shelter, for his manner of dialling or writing an SMS on his mobile was somewhat peculiar. But while taking the picture, I spotted the view from the shelter’s “windows”, which I tried to capture on the next two pictures (right and below).
Between and after these shots I was walking on the Promenade, I was taking pictures of pebbles, and eventually I even descended from the Promenade and was walking on the pavement. It was then that this lady and her dog appeared. The little white dog was wearing a tartan coat and evidently found something in me, as it kept stopping and starring at me, so I even had to pause and let the pair walk ahead. This little dog, I believe, was my White Rabbit, since eventually it stopped by the yet another shelter and spent enough time for me to catch up with them. I tenderly watched the dog for a few moments, and then I looked at the shelter. Next second I was reaching out for the camera, while praying for the pair to walk away as quickly as possible because the rain was starting. Off they walked, and I took the picture (below).
The reason I call it my “decisive moment” is because it was totally spontaneous in that I didn’t plan it. In the words of Cartier-Bresson, the act of taking a photograph is “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which gave that event its proper expression“. So far we’ve known that this is a simple shelter on Llandudno Promenade, but here, totally on its own, it seems to stand completely in the water or even to rise from the water. It is just an object, free from the presence of other objects. Naturally, one can imagine it floating between the two elements – water and air – but the precise lines of the shelter indicate that it is not about to be overturned. When I wrote about this picture in my Russian blog, I noted that the main carcass of the shelter (as well as the bench) is in the form of the letter “pi” (left) that can be interpreted as a symbol of strong will and victory, and this explains why the shelter has got this air of stability about it. At the same time, one can perhaps see two letters “T” join in the carcass (and in the bench), and this letter symbolises the union of two antagonistic forces. Indeed, the latter point is very true about this shelter: it is but a shelter, made of concrete, which can be properly used; however, seen from a different point of view, in the different atmosphere, this ordinary object becomes the subject of a photographic shot, thus being placed in the centre of a purely creative process.
The geometry of this shelter is rather interesting, in that the main lines remain unchanged even when one overturns the image. The most obvious interpretation of this picture would have to do with the place of a man in the world, face to face with the elements. As such, this shelter can be my alter ago, or it can be yours. But perhaps the really curious thing happens if we turn the picture on its head. Cartier-Bresson would perhaps advise against this, and of course, an overturned shelter begs for a different story. I did overturn the picture, however, if only to see what story it could then tell (right). Unexpectedly, the shelter now resembles a carcass of a house. The clouds from the original picture look like a stripe of grass at dusk. The sky resembles the snowy plain, or the white sand in twilight. And the sea is divided into the sea proper and the steel-coloured sky where the ghostly beams of the first floor disappear. Suddenly, the decisive moment appears to be not so much in capturing an object, but in capturing the creative potential of it.