Henri Cartier-Bresson, the Decisive Moment, and Aunt Shirley | Event Photography in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Who is Henri Cartier-Bresson, you ask?

Henri Cartier-Bresson coined the phrase the decisive moment in photography.

He was a French photographer whose spontaneous photographs helped establish photojournalism as an art form.  He was one of the founding members of Magnum Photos, which offered global coverage to periodicals by some of the most talented photojournalists of the time. Also, the central idea of his lifetime of work was what he called “the decisive moment” in photography.

20th anniversary party at Noah's Event Venue in Morrisville, NC

It is the people at an event that I love to capture. | Barbara Bell Photography

In his own words:

“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition,

in a fraction of a second,

of the significance of an event

as well as of a precise organization of forms

which give that event

its proper expression.”

-Henri Cartier Bresson

What does that mean?

It means that a photographer hones her instinct to be prepared to capture a fleeting look or a moment in time.

Dr. Margaret Spellings at the Carolina Club in Chapel Hill, NC

To Cartier-Bresson’s mind, photography provided a means to capture and preserve the real and humane world that we live in.

As photographers, we are all historians and archivists who capture a moment and preserve it for generations to come.  Isn’t that why we are photographing the people we love, the places we visit, and the activities that define our lives?

When I captured Aunt Shirley in the photograph above,  I could see she was the kind of woman who had a ‘twinkle in her eye.’ I aimed my camera at her and in the moment I clicked the shutter, she winked at me.  I love this photograph, this moment in time.

What will you capture in its ‘decisive moment?’


Barbara Bell Photography creates heirloom photographs to inspire families to share their memories near Chapel Hill, NC.