The Decisive Moment April 05 2013, 2 Comments
To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.
In photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson used to speak of the decisive moment. The moment when all things come together within the frame of a viewfinder to make the perfect photo. That same moment, if not acted upon that passes and is gone. Afterwards, the geometry, the expressions, the light never come together in the same way again. The decisive moment refers to the single critical split second in which an event or experience culminates. The term also seems to define photography itself as a medium. It is the pause button to life around us. One frame equals one moment.
In the fire service, every fireman throughout their career will receive at least one chance to act--one chance to make a life changing difference in someone's life. The decisive moment will come and no one will be able to say when or where that moment will come. You can work the slowest truck and pray to be left alone, but over the course of twenty-five years rest assured the decisive moment will find you.
After the moment passes, you will remember it in one of three ways:
First, that you captured the moment because you had spent your whole career preparing for it--that there was nothing more you could have done. The concepts and the skills required to act in that moment had been rehearsed so many times that you didn't even have to think on that day.
The second way you will remember the decisive moment is to feel fortunate that you were able to guess and choose the appropriate thing to do and luckily everything turned out alright. Perhaps you were fortunate to be with someone who knew how to act during that moment.
Finally, the way I hope none of you remember their 'decisive moment' is with shame and regret, pushing it to the farthest confines of your mind hoping to forget it because you had not done all you could to prepare for that day. You dreaded drill time. You hid from the busy houses and chose to bid the slowest trucks regardless of who the officer was.
Our Lady of Angels School Fire
In the end though, we can't always control the outcome and sometimes our best preparations and efforts go unrewarded and unnoticed. But when the decisive moment comes and your mind captures that one image that will live with you forever, what will you think when you look back on it?
I hope you will say, 'I was there, I was present and I did all I could have done to prepare for that day.'