Assignment 3, The Decisive Moment or an Inversion of the Tradition


Assignment 3 gave the option of producing prints in the tradition of the decisive moment or of looking at the inversion of the tradition, demonstrated by Paul Graham and producing prints influenced by this inversion.

I chose, after some consideration and some research to look at the inversion of the tradition as demonstrated by Paul Graham. Decision making /planning/notation available here.



Having looked at the possibility of time in respect of photography there were options for the assignment. To look further at the decisive moment or to look at a subversion of the tradition that underpins that exact time of movement and background, light and shadow and storytelling.

The choice to look at a more durational view of time, where only a few moments between shots leaves slight changes which could be pivotal to the story of the photograph was chosen. The work of Paul Graham (The Present – was significant in choosing the durational approach.

Liz Wells, (p.24, (2000) Photography: A Critical Introduction) states that, “in philosophical terms, any concern with truth-to–appearances or traces of reality presupposes ‘reality’ as a given, external entity. Having had difficulties during my life due to blocked memory which has now mostly resolved itself I have spent many years reviewing what was previously unknown. The difference between using a decisive moment and a viewing and reviewing is therefore of significant importance to me. Paul Graham’s approach appealed as something different was revealed with an additional shot to make a diptych and shooting towards producing diptychs produces a different possibility for storytelling.

Cleethorpes was chosen as a possible location. Cleethorpes is a seaside town right on the railway line; the station is literally next to the beach. It’s recently had a new pier built which has won Pier of the Year 2016.

That British seaside resort, in recent years, has had at times a reputation as being rundown, only about amusement arcades, fast food and boozy weekends; this wasn’t what I wanted to photograph. The brutal communication of the excesses of some of society as shown in the Jean Vigo’s satiral documentary film Apropos de Nice,, or of social deprivation is something I can appreciate but still feel uncomfortable with. Instead of making commentary about the economic struggles and impact but wanted to focus on the beach, the few visitors at the latter part of the day I deliberately chose to shoot in, and the possibility of exploring the autobiographical whilst keeping me out of the picture.

The approach used by Graham was that that was used, (frame, focus, shoot – reframe, refocus, shoot) so that the images weren’t diptychs that looked like the world was passing me by. I felt the interactive method of reframing, refocussing and shooting once more said something of how we might meet whatever it is we encounter in our day differently should we be a little further to the left on the New York sidewalk in Graham’s case or the Cleethorpes promenade for me. And the refocussing is of importance as it directs the eye. Graham describes it as wanting to trigger “that recognition we’ve all had, … that cognitive moment of seeing other lives flowing around us”. (FT Magazine, Feb 10, 2012)

The three diptychs were shot along the beach front, at f9.5 and ISO 800 allowing for there to be a seen route potentially from each diptych to the next. They were all shot between 70 and 200mm effective focal length and from some distance in contrast to Graham’s work which is much closer to his subjects in New York City. But Graham’s work is of ‘The Present’ whereas mine is of the past which is distant and how working with the present moment allows us to unfold the past.

It was having photographed Cleethorpes that I recalled having visited in the past for a fairly short period of time. Further memory returned during post processing as I returned to the selects repeatedly. I ultimately chose to use a final texture/overlay layer for each of the diptychs that seemed fitting to the images themselves. I feel that the texture/overlay with its mask allowing for the main subject areas to be seen without overlay gives each diptych its durational feel that I wished to impart it with.

The final images include a subject who is alone, a trio on the beach and two children on the groynes. These images can take us back to the quote from Liz Wells as to the philosophical question not only of a presented reality, in as much as whether photographs document the truth but as to reality as an external entity. Do we see what is happening here with these subjects? Do we see what of ourselves we might impart onto these photographs as we view them. As for me, as the photographer, what I see is me imparted onto these photographs. These photographs are of truth, though they do not necessarily speak of the truth as to the family dynamic of the trio on the beach or a possible isolated existence of the man on the pier – that would be too simple. They have the potential to allow the viewer to experience what they want to when they look at the image. Which is the whole purpose as I see it of creating a photograph rather than taking a snapshot or making an image of record.

(Word Count – 830 Excluding references – below images)

Images Submitted to Tutor as Prints

Shooting data above each digital image, please note the images are not a series as such but three diptychs with a connecting theme of location and intention.

f9.5, 1/500, ISO 800Pier1

f9.5, 1/500, ISO 800Pier2

f9.5, 1/1500, ISO 800Trio1

f9.5, 1/1500, ISO 800Trio2

f9.5, 1/1500,ISO 800Kids1

f9.5, 1/1500,ISO 800Kids2



Wells, L, (2000) Photography, A Critical Introduction – Second Edition, London and New York, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group. Films Vigo, J, (1930) Apropos de Nice, available at [Last Accessed 27/07/2016]


FT Magazine, Jobey, L, (Feb 10th2012) available at [Last Accessed 2707/2016]

Websites [Last Accessed – 27/07/2016]