Open menu

Educational Cleric, Kashan, Iran
Fujifilm X-T3 with Fujinon XF8-16mmF2.8 R LM WR, f8 @ 1/60 second, ISO 250.

Looking through the portfolios of great photographers, I'm always struck by their sense of timing, whether it's a landscape, a portrait or a street scene. My first thought is, how did the photographer manage to be in such a great spot at just the right time? I'm sure many of us look at images that inspire us and have similar thoughts.

Very often the answers to these questions are found in the stories, articles and biographies surrounding these photographers. For street photographers, it wouldn't hurt to read Cartier-Bresson's Decisive Moment. I have a replica copy of the book in my library, David Oliver has an original - and so does Lyn Whitfield-King. The replica copy is extremely good, resisting the urge to reproduce the photos 'better' using modern printing processes and delivering a faithful, soft-contrast facsimile. However, for me the key is in Cartier-Bresson's essay about how he approaches photography and what he means by the decisive moment. I found it incredibly instructive.

Of course, all these ideas and influences become condensed into your own way of working. My take-away from photographers like Cartier-Bresson, Salgado and even our own local heroes like Michael Coyne, is that half the battle is just being there. Sure, you make your own luck, you follow interesting situations, you make yourself ready for action, but at the end of the day, it's just being there with your camera.

This photo, far from being a Cartier-Bresson or a Coyne, is one that I enjoy because of the way the cleric is positioned within the arches of the mosque in Kashan. One of the great services you'll find in many mosques around Iran's tourist areas are clerics ready to answer questions and explain Islam. This gentleman, mobile phone in hand, spent 15 minutes with us, explaining the Call to Prayer and then giving us a wonderful rendition as well. Having video on my camera meant I was able to capture both the song and this still image.

The other thing I've learnt is that you need to take lots of photos. I know I write this a lot, but to get that one in a thousand shots, you need to take a thousand shots! I have lots of photos with the cleric in a similar position, but only one with his hand gesturing towards the heavens.

S5 Box


If you're having trouble logging in, you might be on the wrong site! To see your subscriptions, log in at:

S5 Register