Photography seemed to me, as I stood there in the white gallery with its rows of pictures and its press of murmuring spectators, an uncanny art like no other. One moment, in all of history, was captured, but the moments before and after it disappeared into the onrush of time; only that selected moment itself was privileged, saved, for no other reason that its having been picked out by the camera’s eye.

from Open City by Teju Cole

That quote was preceded by the description of this photo (I found the image here) from 1930, by Martin Munkacsi, and the statement that Henri Cartier-Bresson had developed the ideal of the decisive moment from seeing that image.

That is a beautiful statement and certainly true for any photograph involving some kind of movement, especially by people or animals. Perhaps I prefer landscape photography for the very reason that it can have a more timeless quality. I do like to take photographs that don’t look like anything would happen before or after the image was taken. Such a landscape photograph has a different quality, absent of the onrush of time, absent of the obvious decisive moment.

I imagine everyone has had the experience of walking in the woods or across a vast field or beach, and thinking that, because of the absence of anything that could date what we saw, time might suddenly change and thus, when we returned from that scene, we would find ourselves in a different time period. In the past or perhaps in the future. I remember thinking that when I was a kid and, truth be told, the thought has also occurred to me many times as an adult.

(((Last night I watched the excellent film Faces Places, on Kanopy of course, and Agnes Varda and JR traveled to the small graveyard where Cartier-Bresson was buried. Always interesting when a name comes up more than once within a day.)))


PS: My preference of landscapes photography does not mean I don’t love Muncascsi or Cartier-Bresson. In fact I think their work is awesome. It’s just not something I can do or am drawn to.