#746. The older I get, the less I know

By Chris Stump | Opinion

Jul 05

<Pascal>This is a quick guest post by Chris Stump, the second of many more, I hope, given the strength and brilliance of his associated photographs. Chris, thanks a lot. Take it away!</Pascal>


(c) Henry Cartier Bresson


The photo of artist Alberto Giacometti above was apparently taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson. I say ‘apparently’ not because I doubt the attribution, not at all.

I say it because I’ve never seen this image. And I’ve paid attention…to black and white images in general, and those by HCB in particular. For decades.

I’m 60 this year. I graduated from photo school in my late twenties and have worked in photography all my adult life. I taught. I own an M3, for christsake.

I really should have come across this, somewhere, at some time.



I just saw it in a recent TNY article [https://bit.ly/2LDOnLd], as likely you did too. But I, perhaps more than most, was gobsmacked by it. I scarcely needed to look for the photo credit. It was clearly him. My eyes slid down the the bottom of the frame, me whispering no, no. How could this be?

I can be so sure I haven’t seen it before because it is so memorable. The motion, so perfectly framed in a split second. A ‘decisive moment’, if you will. And the subject in such perfect synchronization with the two suggestively similar light and dark forms left and right. The negative space. The rhythm. The perfect motion blur. The fag. The balance. The…moment. Fuck.



If I missed this by someone I truly pay attention to, how many more wonderful images out there have escaped unseen. How many more have I not had the opportunity to appreciate. Divided by how many more viewing years, hours, I have left.

Such a pity…

I bought a second Jacob Aue Sobol for the office wall last year, and that’s been wonderful. But nothing can stem the tide.

I sent these thoughts to a very knowledgeable friend, and turns out he’d not heard of Sobol yet…unthinkable to me. And yet, I had not heard of the Miron Zownir character he recommended…so there we are. Come to think of it, y’all may never have seen my work either. Perish the thought 😉



The older I get, the more I realize how little I’ve seen…how little I know. Perhaps you as well?


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  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Aye Chris,

    And the older I get (~70 now), the more critical, or rather spoilt, I become.

    Now, it takes some time and a bit of mental energy to absorb a piece of art, photo, music, dance – whatever…

    So we can’t just mentally collect, as many birdwatchers doo, ticking off their finds with a pencil.

    I was lucky to see a performance by Marcel Marceau once, some Men and the Cat by Giacometti, The Passion of Joan of Arc by Dreyer…

    These – and a few others including some art and photography – mean more in my memory than a lot of other good stuff I’ve been lucky to come across.

    [ That Cat, “Le Chat” – one of the most “cattish” cats I’ve seen!
    e.g. https://www.pinterest.ie/amp/pin/51087776994158819/ ]

    ( And just consider the problem of finding really good reads among all the books that are published!)
    – – –

    I agree, a fantastic photo of Giacometti with his sculptures!
    ( One wonders whose idea it was, my guess is Giacometti’s – he would probably find that posture instinctively.)

    And the next photo (by you?) of the bent man walking also has something Giacomettish about him…

    I especially like the last two portraits!

    And please solve that riddle for us, or is it just me, of the second last photo.
    A really good one.

    • Chris says:

      Aye Kristian,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Yes, absorbing other artist’s work becomes more difficult over time, most likely because of all the kruft [https://bit.ly/2B7JG7j] we build up over the decades. This is why I find such value in collecting, and a late age, works that I enjoy. Reaffirming in some way.

      Yes, the ‘bent man’ and all images are my own. I originally proposed this article including that image and only now, astoundingly, see the relationship to the original HCB. I drink.

      The last two portraits you mention are very special to me. One being my lovely wife on holiday, and the other a dear friend. I’ll let you work out who is who.

      The riddle photo truly could be sand, or something else, at 10cm or 10km. I know. I’ve been taking this photo for years and finally found it. The answer is indeed sand, at less than a meter. First Beach, Newport, RI, USA, with a Leica D-Lux Typ 109. Beauty.


      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        Well, I didn’t mean that it gets more difficult over time to absorb art (etc.).
        But, of course, over time with more experience of life there is ever more to find in a (good) piece of art (etc.)…
        – – –

        Sand, fascinating, I’ve never seen sand in that kind of shapes, I thought more of rocks smothed by ice age ice but that didn’t fit with the tufts of grass and the surface texture – and the grass looked more like eyelashes…

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        We each travel a different road. Who knows where we all are, by the time we’re 60 or 70? While we all end up in the same place, “now” is the result of uncountable personal choices and events.

        I knew at once that it was sand. Because I can remember seeing how the receding waves leave those tiny circles in the sand, as the last wave flows back out again. When I was a small kid, and everything was new. As you explored, these little things filled your imagination. They can’t be dents from asteroids, there are way to many and anyway, they are too small. Are there sea creatures down there, blowing bubbles? What caused those funny little dents in the sand? It comes to you after the initial period, where you never stop saying “why, daddy?” or “but why?”

        And ever since then, I have been cultivating the “art” of “seeing”. While other mortals simply walk on past, never noticing. Not that this makes me any kind of “exception” or “genius”. Although from time to time, I do “see” things that make a very good photograph. And often, it’s when I don’t have a camera with me. So I’ve taken to trying to make sure I ALWAYS have a camera with me. And now, if I don’t have one, I am punished for it – invariably, I see a special view of something – DEMANDING to be photographed – by the camera I left behind – while I silently curse myself – locking the image away in my mind’s eye – and never being able to share it with anyone else.

        Which, for me, is the function and purpose of photography – being able to share

        • Chris says:

          Nice comments Pete,

          For certain, the struggle goes on…to bring ‘the camera’ at the risk of it becoming a burden on a hot day, and worse, the photographer sinking into the background of events as an observer instead of being an active participant?

          Never mind the terrible regret of missing a great shot.

          That said, I’m not aware of many who leave the house with NO camera. For better or worse we all seem to carry phones with us on every venture out, and most of those have cameras as good or better than a 35mm camera back in the day.

          So then the internal discussion becomes ‘shall I take a real camera, or leave it up to the phone?’ All too often the later wins out.

          My solution has been to outfit my DSLR with a pancake lens, which fits snugly into an old Tamrac mini-bag/case once designed to hold a compact camera. It’s tiny, protected, unobtrusive, and gives the same huge, rich files I’m used to.

          I go into a bit more depth on this in an upcoming collaborative article that I believe will be posted on this site soon…?

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        My first thought was sand – I remember seeing something like that as a kid, with those little round rings left behind in the sand, I think from air bubbles or something as the water receded, and before the next wave came in. But that’s not what makes this photo – forget the asteroid dents in the sand – it’s those three almost identical dents. The whole thing creating an image and – as you’ve found, Chris, calling for an explanation.

        But I don’t know what the stuff is, drifting down the image (and the birds), in the shot before the lady with the necklace. Is it snow or something?

        The guy in the last shot shouldn’t be complaining about not seeing things any more – how could he, with his eyes shut?

        • Chris says:

          Hi again Pete,

          Sorry to be late in replies…been busy with work here, which is the most silly excuse ever uttered, I know. 😉

          The ‘almost identical dents’ are simply runnels carved into the sand by receding water [waves]. I think the optical confusion folks are experiencing is created by the lack of any scale or familiar object. This was very intentional, and I think the reason the images works. I’d go so far as to say that all of my successful images [I can’t speak for anyone else] are missing some natural element [intentionally] that [allows? requires?] the viewer to fill in the blank from their memory or imagination. I think that’s what makes some images memorable…the viewer owns them via their personal input.

          So, again, the image was taken from a relatively close range, which may be throwing your eye off. Also, the slop is quite shallow on this beach allowing for lots of time for the water to do its work on the super-saturated sand, and if you find a similar beach to walk someday I believe you’ll see a formation like this.

          In the other shot the ‘stuff…drifting down the image’ is simply snow. Reviewers have suggested that flash was involved as well, but no. Just perfect snow and perfect light filtered through amazing clouds. It was just ‘one of those days’.

          It was mid-week in January in Newport, Rhode Island. My son had been born that month and I needed to get some paperwork from the town office. The snow was quite heavy and rather than drive I knew to grab the camera and take a walk. Keeping it under my coat and out of the snow was a priority, but as I came down the walkway of a park I saw crows, a favorite subject, playing around this stone tower. One shot was all I got, but it worked beautifully.

          The guy in the last shot is an amazing friend. He doesn’t complain, but he certainly does see.

          Thanks for the great comments.

  • Adam Bonn says:

    This picture


    Gets attributed to HCB by google images, but it’s actually by Rui Palha, who’s a contemporary photographer based in Portugal

    (and a name I wheel out whenver someone tells me there’s no decent photographers any more)

    There’s that old saying

    When I was 18 I thought my father was a fool, I was surpised at how much he’d learnt by the time I’d turned 30

    I think the older we get, the more we realise we’ve yet to see! YMMV

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      Loved Rui’s shot. But it made me think how easy it is now, in digital, to correct verticals – and that’s a bit of PP I DO support, because we can’t always set up on tripods, with a field camera, and eliminate converging V’s in cam.

      As for dad . . . wait a few more years, Adam, till you’re grandad’s age – you’ll get a whole new perspective then, too!

    • Chris says:

      OMG….absolutely love that image. Thanks for sharing!

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