Aperture Magazine

The magazine of photography and ideas

From Magnum Photographers, 10 Decisive Moments

Magnum’s Square Sale, online now through June 10th, is an opportunity to collect decisive moments from Magnum photographers.

 - June 6, 2016

For five days only, prints by Magnum photographers which respond to the meaning of the decisive moment, will be available to buy as signed, museum quality, 6×6” square prints, exceptionally priced at just $100. By using this link to make your purchase, a proceed from each sale will support Aperture Foundation.

The timing had to be perfect. A swimmer is caught in a midair plunge from a rusted boat. A young ballerina looks ready to fly above the New York skyline. A man steps, with sublime elegance, into three columns of light. Celebrated for “the decisive moment,” the harmonic composition of form, style, and frame, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photographs are among the most influential in the recent history of photography. For photographers associated with Magnum Photos, the influential agency Cartier-Bresson cofounded in 1947, pursuing the decisive moment has produced endless variations on a classic theme. This month, Magnum’s Square Sale, online now through June 10, is a collective portrait of events personal or political, displaying the astounding vision of international photographers who, from the 1950s to today, who have redefined what it means to stop time on film. Here is a preview, in the words of the photographers themselves.

Jim Goldberg, 6PM, Kiev Ukraine, 2006, from the series Open See

Jim Goldberg, 6PM, Kiev Ukraine, 2006, from the series Open See

Jim Goldberg

“Wandering Kiev with my 4×5, I saw this woman of the streets readily posing for my camera. For a split second, the light, soft smoke and her pose evoked a different reality from the one she lived in.” — Jim Goldberg

Mark Power, Berlin, Germany. November 9th/10th 1989

Mark Power, Berlin, Germany November 9th/10th 1989

Mark Power

“By a series of fortunate events I found myself in Berlin on the night the Wall (unexpectedly) opened. The story of how I came to be there at all is a long one, but fate dealt her cards and I was lucky. The moment was decisive historically, of course, and one of those all-too-rare occasions when a momentous event is joyful rather than tragic.” — Mark Power

Jonas Bendiksen, Title TK

Jonas Bendiksen, Abkhazia, Sukhum, 2005

Jonas Bendiksen

“I took this image at the Black Sea beachfront in the city of Sukhumi in the unrecognized republic of Abkhazia. Tourists and locals were hanging out picnicking and bathing. When people are hurling themselves from old shipwrecks I don’t necessarily think, ‘Oh, here is a decisive moment’. . . Some are complicated, where lots of elements come together; some are simple low-hanging fruit; some are long, drawn-out sluggish affairs; others are over in a split second. Whatever it is, the shutter had better be open at the right time.” — Jonas Bendiksen

Alex Webb, Title TK

Alex Webb, Havana, 1993

Alex Webb

“There are many photographs of mine that have “taken” me. I chose Havana, 1993 because Cuba, then, seemed suspended in time, echoing the feel of the Spanish streets in the 1930s that Cartier-Bresson photographed so memorably. I suspect that the Cartier-Bresson I knew would have been skeptical of the color of this homage to him—but I’d like to think his younger, surrealistic self would have at least appreciated the two boys in the background with that soccer ball hovering overhead, out of reach forever.” — Alex Webb

Jacob Aue Sobol, from Arrivals and Departures, 2012

Jacob Aue Sobol, from Arrivals and Departures, 2012

Jacob Aue Sobol

“The sun’s setting as I sit down on a bench and close my eyes. A group of boys pass me with a basketball. I decide to follow—I have to get back on my feet. They run through the narrow alleys and into an open space on top of a hill. This is the basketball court. I forget about photographing, but start playing with the boys. Then, on my way home, I walk to the hilltop, and as I turn around I see it all come together. The boys playing, their homes and the mountains. A moment I want to keep and remember.” — Jacob Aue Sobol

Matt Black, Title TK

Matt Black, Syracuse, New York, 2015

Matt Black

“To me, the act of observing is what makes a moment decisive. It’s not a moment until it is seen and recorded. What is interesting to me is what happens internally that leads to that instant of clarity. A decisive image stops movement, but it also preserves thought.” — Matt Black

 Raghu Rai, Wrestlers in Akhara, Delhi, 1988

Raghu Rai, Wrestlers in Akhara, Delhi, 1988

Raghu Rai

“I shot this image in 1988 when I was doing my second book on Delhi. While driving past, I saw the main door of a wresting complex (Akhara) garishly painted with two guys in a dramatic wresting posture. I stopped and as I pushed the door open this is what was going on inside. I stayed on the spot and shot a few frames where the inside and outside human body shapes came into certain relationships, thanked them, shut the door and came back.” —Raghu Rai

 Alessandra Sanguinetti, Title TK

Alessandra Sanguinetti, New Year, Buenos Aires, 2005

Alessandra Sanguinetti

“I like to stay long enough in one place or situation to watch the scene unfold, either because of my presence or in spite of it, lingering until it all slows down enough so I can contemplate and be aware of moments that would otherwise go by unnoticed. This portrait of Belinda was taken on a drowsy New Year’s Day morning.” — Alessandra Sanguinetti

Eli Reed, Tyra Banks and John Singleton, 1994

Eli Reed, Tyra Banks and John Singleton, 1994

Eli Reed

“Tyra is what I think of as a generous, intelligent, and sensitive human being, as well as being a beautiful woman, and John is an impassioned artist filmmaker, who is a brilliant writer, connected with the world he lives in. I wanted to capture an image of the two’s feelings for each other at that particular point. Tyra briefly closed her eyes and the moment was there.” — Eli Reed

Carolyn Drake, Title TK, 2005

Carolyn Drake, Wellington, Florida, 2005

Carolyn Drake

“This image recalls a moment in my own life; it puts me in the shoes of myself before I moved abroad in my thirties, just starting my career as a photographer, so is this how I saw the US back then? Having returned to make new images after almost a decade away, it begs me to consider how I’ve changed, how my perceptions of this country have changed, and how image-making has changed. This is one of the few early images of mine that have stayed with me over time.” — Carolyn Drake

All images © the artist/MAGNUM Photos

Support Aperture today through the Magnum Square Print Sale, open online June 6–10, 2016.