I was looking for another Cartier-Bresson ‘moments decisif’ when I found my own decisive moment in the form of a very important website. Obit – Death is only half the story. Obit is about life … is a 2009 Webby Official Honoree! Kevin Nance is a frequent contributor who wrote yet another piece entitled Cartier-Bresson’s Decisive Moment. He is a photojournalist who introduced another photographer to me in the form of a contest.
But the real contest was between an American, W. Eugene Smith — best known for his “Walk to Paradise Garden” (1946), his great magazine photo-essay on Albert Schweitzer (1954) and his “Tomoko Eumura in Her Bath” (1971), often called a Pieta for the 20th century — and a Frenchman, Henri Cartier-Bresson.
I knew I had seen a photo named “Walk to Paradise Garden” before, so I searched for it and found a blog in Beirut. The photographer-blogger has an anecdote about Smith which I found discomforting:
To my only consolation, I can say that sometimes photographs do not depict real memories, the most stunning example is W. Eugene Smith’s very famous ‘Walk into the Paradise Garden’ – what looks like a casual photo of his children going into the garden in a moment of bliss was a photo that was rehearsed many times until the pace of the trot, the lighting and the angle of bushes was perfect.
I don’t agree with the blogger. It may not have been one those Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moments, but it is nonetheless a real memory. Smith is a photographer who, in 1946, spent the day with his children composing a photographic work of art. Its value is of no less importance.
………………………………. A Walk to Paradise Garden
UPDATE (Oct. 3rd): The Iconic Photos blog posted this photo today with this quote about the photo from W. Eugene Smith about this photo:
“While I followed my children into the undergrowth and the group of taller trees – how they were delighted at every little discovery! – and observed them, I suddenly realized that at this moment, in spite of everything, in spite of all the wars and all I had gone through that day, I wanted to sing a sonnet to life and to the courage to go on living it….
Pat saw something in the clearing, he grasped Juanita by the hand and they hurried forward. I dropped a little farther behind the engrossed children, then stopped. Painfully I struggled — almost into panic — with the mechanical iniquities of the camera….”
I tried to, and ignore the sudden violence of pain that real effort shot again and again through my hand, up my hand, and into my spine … swallowing, sucking, gagging, trying to pull the ugly tasting serum inside, into my mouth and throat, and away from dripping down on the camera….
I knew the photograph, though not perfect, and however unimportant to the world, had been held…. I was aware that mentally, spiritually, even physically, I had taken a first good stride away from those past two wasted and stifled years. (See original text)