Manuel Vazquez – Traces

Bate, D. (2016) Photography (The Key Concepts). (2nd Revised Edition) (s.l.): Bloomsbury Academic.
manuel vazquez | SERIES | 0 (s.d.) At: (Accessed 09/03/2020).

For Henri Cartier-Bresson the idea of the ‘decisive moment’ was more of an exercise in personal self-discipline than a golden rule for all photographers. David Bate describes his approach as combining a ‘”notion of instantaneity in photography with an older concept from art history of telling a story in a single picture” (Bate,2016:68). He disliked any idea of post-production, and wasn’t too bothered about printing either. Everything was in the moment of taking the photograph.

In “Traces” Manuel Vazquez has digitally altered and constructed images to focus on specific individuals. Some are composite images but many concentrate on a single individual. Here the original has been altered to remove or hide other people. Their presence is still evident by shadows, or a stray hand or foot. The expressions on the faces and their body language indicate that they are on their way to or from somewhere. They are frozen in an instant, a single point in time in a bigger story. Vazquez’s decisions in how to alter his original photographs to produce the final image says that he is imposing his own ‘decisive moment’ on the scene. Without the rest of the original scene he removes most of the context that applied at the time; we do not know what the background looked like or what other people looked like or were doing. He creates his own “story in a single picture” that may or may not be true to the actual scene at the time. The lack of context also encourages us as observers to apply our own interpretation; what is it that has made them turn round, or why do they have a worried look?

It is impossible to use one set by one photographer to generate a truism but this does support the course notes in stating that any ‘decisive moment’ is not (necessarily) an intrinsic property of a photograph itself.

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