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The Cartier-Bresson Way: To Plan or Not to Plan Your Street Photography

Ah, mes amis, the streets are calling! They beckon us with their unpredictable beauty, their fleeting moments, and their endless possibilities. But as we step out, camera in hand, a question lingers: should we go out with a plan, or should we let fate guide our lens?

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the father of modern street photography, was a man who believed in the "decisive moment," that split second where everything aligns perfectly. But even he had his methods, his favourite spots, and his keen eye trained by years of experience. So, let's explore the two approaches, shall we?

The Planned Approach

Some photographers swear by planning. They scout locations, study the light, and even pre-visualise the shots they want to capture. Planning can offer a sense of direction, especially for those new to street photography. It can help you focus and make the most out of your time, especially if you're visiting a location for a limited period.

But, ah, there's a caveat. Too much planning can make your work feel staged, robbing it of the spontaneity that gives street photography its soul. Cartier-Bresson himself was known to say, "Our eye must constantly measure, evaluate. We alter our perspective by a slight bending of the knees; we convey the chance meeting of lines by a simple shifting of our heads a thousandth of an inch...." In simpler terms, even with planning, one must remain flexible.

The Spontaneous Approach

Then there are those who prefer to wing it, to wander the streets with no agenda, letting the scenes unfold before them. This approach can yield unexpected gems, those serendipitous moments that you couldn't have planned if you tried. It's a bit like jazz, non? A beautiful improvisation.

However, going out without a plan can also result in aimless wandering and missed opportunities. You might stumble upon a fantastic scene only to realise you're not equipped to capture it, or you might end up with a collection of shots that lack cohesion.

The Middle Ground

Perhaps the best approach is a blend of both. Go out with a loose plan, but be open to detours. Have your favourite spots, but don't be afraid to explore new ones. As Cartier-Bresson put it, "To photograph is to hold one's breath when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It's at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy."

So, mes amis, whether you're a planner or a wanderer, remember that the streets are a stage where both the planned and the unplanned have roles to play. It's up to you to find your balance, to capture those decisive moments that lie somewhere between serendipity and strategy.

Disclaimer: While this article aims to capture the spirit of Henri Cartier-Bresson's approach to photography, it's important to note that these words are not his own but are inspired by his philosophy and methods.

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