Now that my History of Photography class has wrapped up for the semester, I'm getting caught up with the website a little. The one main photographic project we had this semester was a photo emulation. We chose one classic photograph and were asked to emulate it for our final post of the term. Mine was the classic "Derriere la Gare Saint-Lazare" ("Behind the Saint Lazare Railroad Station," 1932) by the "Godfather of Street Photography," Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Deeply influenced by the Surrealists, Cartier-Bresson coined the phrase "Decisive Moment." This concept was to convey his deep instinctual knowledge of just when to push the shutter of his Leica Rangefinder. This image is a perfect example of an amazing moment in time - just before the leaping man - is about to land back on Earth and get wet in the lake of water surrounding him. Time Magazine was so impressed with this image that it called it the "Photo of the Century." Beyond the unique moment in time of the jumper hovering in the air, the posters behind him and even the hands on the clock tower both echo the jumper's body position in the air, and ironically allude to the location from the name "Railowsky" as well as the man's current location (in the sky).
In early 1947, Cartier-Bresson went on to be one of the Magnum founders with several other photographers. Capa's brainchild, Magnum Photos was a cooperative picture agency owned by its members.
Little did I know that this would be a very challenging project! Fortunately, the weather this winter cooperated with me, and we got some sizeable rainfalls in Sacramento. My emulation is called “Behind the 6th Street Powerstation,” and most of its elements were taken behind the Old Folsom Powerhouse Station
A substation located at 6th and H Streets in downtown Sacramento. It is a self-portrait of myself jumping from a ladder that I brought with me (along with the other items in the water) in the alley behind the substation using a remote shutter release mid-air before I landed in the puddle. I did two different photo shoots after two big rains last winter. In order to better mimic Cartier-Bresson’s image, I merged the fencing from the substation with the main image, added other small elements during the post-production process, as well as extending the reflection of myself and those elements. Whew! There was absolutely nothing candid, spontaneous or "decisive moment" about the shoot, but I think it worked and I was pleased with the result.