Project 2, Photography as Information – Exercise 5.3

Exercise 5.3

Looking again at Henri Cartier Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazarre,  introduced earlier in the module (Part 3 Traces of Time, Project 3 – What Matters Is To Look) we are asked to say whether there is a ‘pivotal point’ to which the eye returns.

The point, is surely, the place where the subject’s heel extends to just above the reflective pool of water.

Derriere La Gare Saint-Lazarre  – (Reproduced for educational purposes – Image Link)cartier-bresson-henri-iza-gare-st-lazare-paris-1932

The image is famous for epitomising the ‘decisive moment’. That the subject’s heel is captured just at the point above the reflective surface so that the inversion of the image is perfectly intact whilst line and curve protrude from the water is what makes this image. Behind the subject is a notice for a performer of the day, another figure in silhouette and the line of the railings and the rooftops. That the main subject is jumping across some of the water from a ladder that looks a little like railway tracks in an area that is described by the image title as Behind the Gare Saint-Lazarre brings vast amounts of information to the viewer.

The image is the opposite of the image by Rinko Kawauchi for the cover of her book llluminance as previously described in the post Photography as Information – Research – Rinko Kawauchi’s Illuminance. Kawauchi had used reduction of information whereas Cartier Bresson has included more information than many photographers would ever manage.

If however Cartier Bresson’s work is contrasted differently to that which I have above when comparing with the technique used by Kawauchi; if Bresson’s image is compared with Sugimoto’s Theatre Series it could be possible to look at the pivotal point, the magical point in Behind the Gare Saint-Lazarre as a form of ‘nothingness’ framed by information. Yet I feel that the opposite is the actual truth. The space beneath the subject’s foot, whilst apparently nothingness is what here is profound because Cartier Bresson’s image is a shot of a moment and captures the tension of the moment. Sugimoto’s Theatres have an appearance of ‘nothingness’ across their centres due to information overload of the constant light of the screen as they were shot for such a duration of time, though the appearance of ‘nothingness’ may of course be only appearance rather than reality as a whole film becomes nothing, just as our pasts might be nothing to someone who doesn’t know us.

Sport Relief – Sheffield  SportRelief

My image above is neither a decisive moment nor a long exposure. Though it does reduce some information as Rinko Kawauchi’s image does but in this instance not by the use of light but by its conversion to monochrome. It also fractures some information due in part to the length of the exposure, a short version of long exposure, and the intentional camera movement, though slight. The point the viewers eye is drawn to is, whilst not being a small pivotal area, the couple walking to the rear right of the image. The event appears to be happening around them. It does not seem an unreasonable image to represent a once yearly event.

The summation is that what we may classify as information or as non-information isn’t the true relevance. It’s that we can see what’s remarkable within the structure of information as it has been presented to us and how that helps us to read what is being said. And that as a student it is possible to learn to structure the information that may be presented in a photograph to communicate figuratively so as to go beyond producing literal reproductions of scenes.