"Behind the Gare St. Lazare"

Discussion in 'Critique Forum Archives' started by tsien, Dec 12, 2004.

  1. tsien

    tsien TPF Noob!

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    There is one famous photo from Henri Cartier-Bresson that has puzzled me. At the site:

    http://www.natures-pencil.co.uk/heroes/cbresson.htm

    it is written, quote:

    "This picture, Behind the Gare St. Lazare, with its many echoes and combinations of a few simple visual themes is his best known example." (of the phrase The Decisive Moment)

    Yes, the reflections were an apt capture. Very good. But are those "a few simple visual themes" really in harmony in the picture?

    Perhaps my bigger question is: what makes this photo truly great? Seems like I fail to see some wonder hidden in the picture. What's your impression?

    http://www.natures-pencil.co.uk/images/cbgsl.jpg
    [​IMG]
     
  2. celery

    celery TPF Noob!

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    That shot has amazing tension. They guy is caught right before he falls into the water. You know what's about to happen, but because it's a photograph, it isn't happening as time is frozen in that one moment.

    It may not be the technically best photograph, but it has great tension because of the subject matter.
     
  3. Firelance

    Firelance TPF Noob!

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    I had to discuss that picture on my photography exam :D
     
  4. tsien

    tsien TPF Noob!

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    Thanks, Celery. I recall once I saw an AFP news photo of the drought days in India. It was the moment right before three boys were jumping into the water under the heat wave. One contributing factor as to why I felt the tension then was the tight composition in that news photo. My eyes were immediately drawn into the boy who was about to made the splash. This Cartier-Bresson one is different. It has much bigger interplay of the background themes. In a way I feel the man's moment of falling is not focused within the entire setting and makes me wonder if the photographer intended that way or not.

    Firelance, I doubt I would ever pass such a course101 if I took it. :( Hope you did well in the exam. :)
     
  5. mrphil

    mrphil TPF Noob!

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    Surely this is 'the decisive moment'. Two seconds earlier and it's just a guy on a board. Two seconds later and it's a guy in a puddle. Also a great snapshot of a time and place, what looks like a war-torn Paris with people milling around the ruins. Of course I could be wrong but i'm sure this was when Bresson was shooting. Just love the shadowy characters in the background and the beutiful reflections.
     
  6. bronzeo

    bronzeo TPF Noob!

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    From an artist's p.o.v. the photo has a great use of negative space. That in the way "things" are composed within the lighter sky and it's reflection in the water...Fabulous composition there....... Another less grasping one would be things moving and things still.....
     
  7. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I like the comments of both mrphil and celery. Right on the money. :D

    This one has always been one of my favorites, for the tension and for the capture of the decisive moment (it's a perfect visual explanation of the phrase), and also because I love all that reflection.

    Fun thread, tsien. :wink:
     
  8. Fullpower

    Fullpower TPF Noob!

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    maybe a classic "great shot from the master" but i say it is too busy. too many seperate unrelated elements to really stand out. the clock tower and rooflines in background, and the sign on the fence in the middle detract from the reflected image in foreground. the major elements of the scene are in conflict, and dont really complement each other.
     
  9. walter23

    walter23 TPF Noob!

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    I've never seen this photo before, but it really is a nice picture.

    For me, it's because it's visually pleasing and full of mystery. I can't imagine any plausible location or situation that could give rise to that exact scene. Maybe it's a construction site? Maybe it's some netherworld circus hell filled with dark sillhouette-ghosts. Whatever it is, it's totally outside of the realm of my experiences.

    I think being foreign is probably one of the most appealing aspects of any picture I look at. The most brilliant photo from my city pales in comparison to the most poorly-taken photograph from some exotic city on the other side of the planet... just point a camera (any camera) at a fisherman in greece (or some other possible cliche like that) and it will look pleasing to me because I never see greek fishermen walking around between downtown calgary's glass towers.

    And I think this is where art critique might go a little bit wrong. It's easy to notice cool things, like that cool synchronicity between the sign (railowsky) and the railway-like ladder that the weird figure has apparently just lept from. You could look at it for a long time and make up all kinds of observations and connections, but the point is that for whatever reason it's compelling enough to make you want to look at it long enough to start inventing connections ("the shape of the roofs mirrors the shape of the jumping man's legs, and the jumping man's legs make an arrow facing forward as he leaps toward some unknown destiny" blah blah blah). I have no idea how a great artist (or photographer) thinks, but I suspect it's substantially less than the art critics who pour over every single photograph and write paragraph after paragraph about every little element of composition...

    But I really don't know. I'm just guessing.
     

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