I’ve never been a huge believer in Cartier-Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’ theory. Sometimes it works like in the image below.
But other times I can’t tell why the particular moment chosen by C-B was the ‘decisive’ one. But there is great truth in the statement that some of the best photography emerges ‘in a flash’. ‘In a moment.’ Now I am definitely not saying that the colour picture that leads this post is anywhere near as good as C-B’s image of the man leaping across an urban pond. But it is a nice one, I think. And the elements came together in a quick second as I stood ‘observing’ life on the busy ghats of Varanasi. I was drawn to the ochre and orange wall but felt something was missing. I kept looking at it but nothing grabbed me. I took a few more shots in other directions when suddenly this woman with a shimmering bluish sari came right into the frame, stopped and bent over to offer flowers to a hidden god. Without really thinking I grabbed one frame (it was the era of film, when one shot was the norm) and knew I had something.
I suppose you could say this was the ‘decisive moment’. Because the one after like the one before would not have produced what I wanted, a study in colour. The fact that you can’t see the woman’s face is perfect, because this is not a ‘human interest’ picture but a celebration of saturated colour. What I wanted (though I was not conscious of it) was the colour of her sari.