But he was wrong. Before these tools became widespread, photographers were indeed very much like painters, in both form and function. The camera itself evolved from the camera obscura, literally a “darkened room,” in which one or two people would stand, and record the scene before them, tracing it on wallpaper. Later film-based large format cameras required easel-like tripods and stationary perspectives. Insensitive emulsions required exposure times of many minutes. There was very little difference between a photographer in the field and a painter sketching in the field. As materials improved, and costs reduced, photographers quickly usurped painterly subjects and methods, from formal portraiture to landscapes to still-life, and, having thus freed the painters from the burden of commercial utility, cleared the path for the flowering of the 20th-century modern art movements, from Cubism to Abstract Expressionism to Performance Art.

So the Decisive Moment itself was merely a form of performance art that the limits of technology forced photographers to engage in. One photographer. One lens. One camera. One angle. One moment. Once you miss it, it is gone forever. Future generations will lament all the decisive moments we lost to these limitations, just as we lament the absence of photographs from pre-photographic eras. But these limitations (the missed moments) were never central to what makes photography an art (the curation of time,) and as the evolution of technology created them, so too is it on the verge of liberating us from them.

The Decisive Moment is dead. Long live the Constant Moment.

On the Constant Moment, Clayton Cubitt (via dezzoster)