Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy | All Rights Reserved
Henri Cartier-Bresson, considered a master of candid photography, and an early user of 35 mm film, needs no further introduction to photographers except to note that the now famous "the decisive moment" was actually the English translation of the French "Images à la sauvette" or "images made on the sly"; a title given to his earliest book.
While there's little disagreement that much of street photography as a genre consists of candid photographs, made by quick thinking and fast reactive photographers, we should not also ignore the critical role that anticipation plays in "capturing" a decisive moment in a scene developing in front of their eyes. Much like experienced sports photographers who know the precise moment when the ball (or whatever) will be struck or thrown, visual anticipation of actions is a skill that we -as humans- can develop, provided we are focused on our surroundings. It also takes time and patience.
In NYC's Washington Square Park, I noticed a young girl with her mother approaching an artist selling her paintings....and expected them to have a conversation; perhaps about how much the girl liked the artwork. I knew an interaction would happen, I switched my camera to a rapid 8 frames per second and waited for the moment...and it was only after a few words were exchanged that the girl curtsied.
Naturally, I didn't know she would curtsy...but did anticipate some form of human interaction would ensue from this brief encounter, and was rewarded by this impromptu graceful gesture.
Another instance of successful anticipation was when the regular "living statue" in Washington Square Park, his head encased in a replica of the famous Arch, raised his arms and hands as if in supplication, whilst the delightful little girl looked up at him, eyes wide open in puzzlement and perhaps, awe.
This scene was actually quite easy to anticipate as the girl had been looking at the "living statue" for a few minutes, and I made many frames of that. However, it's the combined dynamic of his raised arms and hands and her wide open eyes that I think makes the photograph.
And another one...also in Washington Square Park during a hot afternoon. I waited for the moment when I felt the subjects' stances were right.