Brasserie By Henri Cartier-Bresson

I am still receiving lots of pictures of people shot from behind. I have published hardly any of them and it’s really too bad: some of them are beautifully apped, moody, mysterious, atmospheric, but there is not a face in them. I wrote about this once before here. I highly recommend reading that piece after you have finished this one.

I want to encourage you to get people’s faces in your shots if you are doing street photography. I know it’s a lot harder, but there is a reason nearly one-third of our brains is devoted to face recognition. We love faces.

People’s backs, not so much.

I went to the Cartier-Bresson retrospective at the SF MOMA the other day. While it did not have the impact of the LA MOCA’s Warhol retrospective nine years ago (which literally brought me to tears), it was and is an amazing exhibit. If you are on the West Coast, I recommend making the trip to San Francisco to see it (it runs through January 30th).

If you can’t make it to San Francisco, I highly recommend the documentary on Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye. Available on Netflix, unfortunately not streaming, but on DVD. Everyone should own a copy of this film and watch it every six months.

Although most of Cartier-Bresson’s street shots of people contain their faces, many do not, but there is so much going on in the pictures that their backs are not the primary focus of the image. So if you must shoot from behind, make sure there is something else, something compelling, that tells a story in the rest of the frame.

And one last little request before we get to the meat of the article? Can we please back off on the PicGrunger a little?  I see soooooooo much of it. Love it, but a little goes a long way! Try this: grunge your picture lightly, then layer it together with the original in DXP … you can get some really nice effects and textures that way.

The Cartier-Bresson exhibit was revelatory in a number of ways. Each picture is a poem, a story, a frozen moment exploding with life. He was a master of the “decisive moment,” as he called it. I’m saying nothing new here. In the print lab, he would sometimes make his assistants work on a print for a week, using the same negative, to get the picture where he wanted it to be, in terms of detail, gradations, blacks, whites, contrast, highlights, and so on. So … a lot of apping went into Cartier-Bresson’s work. They just did it differently back then.

So Cartier-Bresson’s formula for a great picture: capture the moment  + do what it takes to make the perfect print. It starts with the picture. We cannot app a bad picture into a good one. And I have seen many people try. I’ve tried myself more times than I can count. (I recently went back and removed fifty or sixty of my own images from this site. What a relief! I often think I should remove more.)

On a related note: be careful about over-apping a good picture. I see a lot of that, as well. It’s tempting and easy to do, but, sometimes, a picture doesn’t need a lot of help. App as needed! (And you know I love apped pictures.)

On another note, I received some complaints a week ago from a couple of trusted contributors that my curation of the site, of late, had been a bit sloppy. I went back and took a look.

They were right.

Things slowed down over the holidays; submissions dropped off; I got a little complacent, or … needy. Or both.

I swear, every time I curate from a mindset of deprivation or scarcity, rather than abundance, I screw up. Witness the bad nudes fiasco of a few months ago, which happened just before we started getting all the great new nudes from Butow, Jody, Devoid, Zoe, Christian, the remix projects, and everybody else …

But as I looked through the site over a couple of days, going back a month or two, it was clear to me that I had been erring on the side of letting borderline images through, instead of not. I’m not even talking about that many images: just enough to alert me to the zone into which I had unwittingly drifted, as if on a gentle stream, aboard a slowly leaking inner tube, under a blue sky and bright sun. But sinking, nonetheless.

So that, combined with the Cartier-Bresson exhibit, was another revelation, leading me to another conclusion: It was time to severely tighten up on what is published on the site, once again. I consciously did this back in April or May last year, petrified that people would stop submitting, but the opposite happened: the pictures got way better, and more of them came in, and new artists emerged and joined the Pixels family.

So … the past few days I’ve been brutal. I’m sorry. It must be that way.

This year we take take iPhonography to a whole new place.

Last year was incredible, just amazing to watch talent develop, and the beginnings of recognition in the art world and within public perception, and the events and shows, and so on.

It’s been quiet for a while. No big news, shows, events, calls for submission, or anything to keep the intertubes buzzing.

I assure you it is not going to stay that way for long.

Keep shooting. Focus on getting the great shot … and then … app that bitch ’til it sings!

Stay tuned.