Capturing the Decisive Moment with Disposable Cameras

An art gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico sent out disposable cameras around the country and compiled the results into an art show representing the decisive moment. The show, titled Present Company Excluded: or the Disposability of the Decisive Moment, took place last year at the Santa Fe Gallery. With the disposable camera already on its way out in popularity, the project took an outdated piece of equipment and gave it new purpose:

The decisive moment is a term coined by photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who defined it as being able to capture a moment of historical and visual significance. With digital photography it’s easy to take hundreds of shots and then later go through them and only keep the ones you like. With a disposable camera the photographer is limited to a set number of frames and must then make a decision before taking a shot about whether it’s precisely what they want. This also forces the photographer’s awareness to sharpen as they look for the perfect subject.

one use camera

Each photographer was sent the same camera and the gallery did all of the developing of the images once the cameras were returned. This way the camera, the number of shots, and the film processing were identical—only the photographer’s personal experience differed.

bicycle and wall picture

cat in sun spot

industrial night sky

laundry in the sun

girl and tiger

Because the photos were processed later, none of the photographers had any idea what their final product would look like. In a day and age where heavily processed photos can be seen everywhere, the project had a more gritty and realistic feel to it. No two photos were the same.

They say the best camera is the one you have, so how can you stretch yourself as a photographer? Perhaps go out and buy a disposable camera and see what you create!

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One Comment

  1. Ben Stein says:

    Check out this Canadian photog Michael Ernest Sweet. He’s doing a lot of work with disposables on the street now. He’s got some good stuff.

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