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The Decisive Moment in Archaeology: Photography and the Loss, Recovery, and Repatriation of America’s Missing in Action

Author(s): Jesse W. Stephen

Year: 2017

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Summary

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s concept of the decisive moment (1952) is one of the most enduring and debated ideas of photography. Defined as when "the visual and psychological elements of people in a real life scene spontaneously and briefly come together in perfect resonance to express the essence of [the] human situation" (Suler 2012, 372), the decisive moment has been explored and practiced extensively in the space of modern photojournalism. Less common is the exploration of the decisive moment in scientific settings, where imaging is driven less by considerations of aesthetic harmony in favor of objective representation. This paper applies Cartier-Bresson’s concept to an archaeological endeavor: the accounting of Missing in Action (MIA) service members. Through the analysis of imagery produced at various phases, insights are offered regarding photography, unique aspects of visualizing the pursuit of America’s MIAs, and the nature of objectivity and the image in archaeology.


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The Decisive Moment in Archaeology: Photography and the Loss, Recovery, and Repatriation of America’s Missing in Action. Jesse W. Stephen. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Fort Worth, TX. 2017 ( tDAR id: 435120)


Keywords


Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 653

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America