Have you ever wondered what Cartier-Bresson's Decisive Moment is? Here's an easy way to understand it, with the help of the Greek god Kairos, believe it or not.

[highlight]Decisive Moment Definition[/highlight]

 

Henri Cartier Bresson is known for the “Decisive Moment”, but the idea actually comes from the 17th century writings of Cardinal de Retz when he penned “Il n'y a rien dans ce monde qui n'ait un moment decisif”. “There is nothing in this world that doesn't have a decisive moment”. In other words, there's Decisive Moments in History for example, where everything come down to one pivotal moment, like the murder of Autria's ArcheDuke and his wife that strated World War I.

Of course Bresson applied it to photography and the The Decisive Moment Book is filled with his own examples. But what is the Decisive moment? Here's a quote of Bresson himself: “To me, photography 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 give that event its proper expression.”

Between me and you, I kind of get it but it's too complicated for my bird brain to comprehend. So here's the Inspired Eye definition:

 

 

The Decisive moment, or Inspired Moment as I like to call it is when the photographer's eye, heart and mind are in alignment and are all present in one photograph. Basically it's when the whole universe plots a moment where everything is aligned: Composition, Emotion & Thought. It's like everything comes down to a tiny moment where the world slows down so that you can make a photograph.

[highlight]Kairos, Greek god of the Photographers[/highlight]

 

What we call “Time” is usually Chronos time, aka linear time. You see, a large part of the East views time differently than we do, they view time in terms of Kairos time. For example, if we ask “When does church start?” you expect a definite answer in linear time, like “At 1:30 pm”. That's Chronos time. Someone in the middle east for example, to the same question will answer “In early afternoon”.

Their view of time is not definite, it's opportune, it varies. So their church service might start at 1:00pm or at 2:00pm, it will start at the opportune time, when there's enough people gathered to be there. That's Kairos time. Kairos, as it turns out is the Greek god of time, and the son of Zeus.

What's interesting for photographers is that Kairos has an interesting depiction, get this: he is bald from the back. Here's how he looks like from a Francisco Salviati painting:

 

[highlight]Seize the moment[/highlight]

 

The Greeks believed that Kairos, which embodies the opportune time, could be easily caught by the hair when he's running towards you. But once he would get pass you, you could not catch him by the hair because he is bald from the back. Hence, a Kairos moment, once lost is lost forever….just like the Decisive moment.

If you think about it, the Inspired Moment IS the Kairos moment, there's some moments where everything comes down, waiting for you to take a picture, if you miss it, you miss it forever. The Inspired Moment is what every single photographer out there strives for in their photography.

Kairos can strike at any moment, the most important thing is to be ready to grab him by the hair and create a photograph. Kairos or opportune moments do not happen everyday, once in a while only, but the crucial thing is to always be ready, so you must always stay sharp.

I wasn't expecting anything when I was walking with my camera in a market in Nicaragua, but in a split second I saw Kairos charging at me, I saw a photograph in my mind's eye, the world slowed down, the guy lifted his head and I took Kairos by the hair, I clicked:

 

 

I didn't even need to look at my LCD, I knew I had the shot. One of my favorites to this day. If I wasn't ready, if I didn't have my settings correctly, if I wasn't attentive to what was going on around me, I would have lost this image forever.

Inspired Moments don't wait for you, only you can be ready when it comes your way. Are you always ready when you see Kairos approaching?