There is an exhibition of photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson at the Emirates Palace Hotel. We went along, partly because he was brilliant, but also because we are ever-so-tenuously related. He was my uncle Bertrand’s uncle. I met him a couple of times in Rome when I was a teenager. I wish now I had been more aware of the man and his Leica.
I love the idea of the defining moment – the concept he described as the time when you take a great photograph, capturing the essence of something. Since we saw the exhibition I have been on the look-out for defining moments of my own.
I saw one yesterday. I was at a traffic light, a worker was crossing the road in the midday heat wearing a selection of rags on his head to keep the sun off and dirty clothes. His eyes, as they looked towards me in my air-conditioned car, seemed almost lifeless. There was no hope in them, no interest, I don’t think he even cared if he got run over. Behind him four lanes of expensive air-conditioned cars whizzed by.
In a photograph he would have been static in front of all these moving monuments to riches he will never have. I didn’t take the picture, I didn’t even have a camera with me, but the image has stayed in my mind, just like so many of the Cartier-Bresson photographs we saw have.
Life here is always interesting. Today I am going to interview the opera diva Angela Gheorghiu. I am half-scared that she will throw a shoe at me for asking the wrong question (another defining moment) and half excited. Last night I interviewed Dannii Minogue. It was my first interview with a pop star. She was sweet, with vast fake eyelashes and pink satin dress, but it was a little like talking to someone’s teenage au-pair. In fact I found it quite hard to think of what to ask her, especially as I had been told to stay off certain subjects, like Kylie’s breast cancer. But if there was a defining moment in the interview, that was it. She mentioned the cancer, and tears welled up in her eyes.
I had a verbally defining moment from Leo yesterday on the way back from football.
“Mummy, when I grow up I am going to be boss,” he said, and then he paused. “But if you’re a boss, you can’t really go to the beach.”
That boy has his priorities well sorted out. Let me know if you come across any defining moments.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2009