This Week’s Photo – Three Boys at Lake Tanganyika – Martin Munkácsi

This week’s photograph is by a Hungarian photographer, often called the father of fashion photography, Martin Munkácsi.

This particular image, of three boys at lake Tanganyika taken in 1929 inspired the young Henri Cartier-Bresson who himself said,

“For me, this photograph was the spark that ignited my enthusiasm. I suddenly realized that, by capturing the moment, photography was able to achieve eternity. It is the only photograph to have influenced me. This picture has such intensity, such joie de vivre, such a sense of wonder that it continues to fascinate me to this day.”

By capturing the moment. The Decisive moment?

The image black and white image itself, of young boys at the lake is almost a silhouette. Almost being a silhouette means that the subject of the image – the three boys – are rendered as simple shapes in the photograph. This increases the contrast between them and the bright background – resulting in their gesture and shape standing out a lot more.

Now, having said that, there’s just enough front lighting falling on the boys to give them some texture and not completely render them a silhouetted.

There is also a certain visual echo in the gesture of the boys, especially with the first two having their right arm stretched out. Shapes formed by their bodies is associated with someone in excitement and exuberance. Joie de vivre, as Cartier-Bresson put it – and I agree with him (you know what they say about great minds..!!)

This image is the story of the boys captured in one perfect, decisive moment.


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