A friend of Henri Cartier Bresson once said to him, “you do not work, you take a hard pleasure.”
While I often feel I’m working very hard and certainly too long, I must admit I take a pleasure in the work. At its best, it’s inspiring to stare down the proverbial blank sheet of paper.
The work of crafting a simple, expansive idea that holds the power of attention and provokes the desired emotion is where it’s at.
A simple idea can be expressed in many forms and therein lies the charm. This is the hard pleasure, seeing the elegant idea.
As a photographer Bresson was credited with the idea of the decisive moment. He did not come up with these words, but he certainly delivered it with his eye and his camera. He could see and anticipate the decisive moment to press the shutter. To capture the emotion and energy of a moment.
I’m charmed by this. Working, searching out the ideas, seeing them come to form. When I’m lucky, I can admit to anticipating the outcome of my efforts, the moment when I click the shutter in the mind and the idea snaps into view.
Bresson would go deeply into his chosen subject, immerse himself completely for weeks, months, years. It is this devotion that allows the decisive moment to be understood. It is the same behind the cameras as it is behind a blank sheet of paper. Total commitment to the subject allows the ideas to surface, to be seen. It is not usually a happy accident. Ideas are a byproduct of the effort of immersion. Of a selfless giving over to the subject.
Whether I have a camera at the ready, a script in hand or a blank sheet of paper, it is a devotion to the subject that renders the outcome. The ideas, the images, flow from a river of details large and small, from vague associations, references, past experiences, seemingly unrelated events, the song of a bird, a passing road sign, overheard conversations, the sound of the subway, a cold shower, a book well read, or a film watched yet again.
Images… ideas emerge. Devotion, immersion, life.