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Decisive Moments: Forrest Sargent

photo by Forrest Sargent

I want to tell you today of the child of a magician who has learned to make his own magick. Whenever you or I feel frustrated that we cannot communicate clearly, I want us to think of this young man, Forrest. I want us to look at our struggles, and to remind ourselves, that with enough will, and some help, we can create anything. We can do anything. Whether people see or read or hear what we intended, is not up to us, what is up to us, is that we speak, or paint, or write, or dance, or bake, or craft, or sing.

Forrest is autistic, and cannot speak with words. Here is a piece of his story.

Forrest’s magick is the magick of light and shadow, the magick of color and placement, and of what the great Henri Cartier-Bresson called “the decisive moment.” Cartier-Bresson was speaking of capturing a moment in time so precisely, that a whole story is told in that instant. Forrest, as a photographer, looks for that, I’m sure. There is yet another way to think about “the decisive moment” and that is the place when our spirits captured a moment and said “This. Now. Right here. I choose.” Just as a photographer chooses the shot, something in us chooses to make a stand, or move forward, or decide to be still for once in our lives. There is commitment there, in that time. What follows after becomes a series of choices built upon that first choice, that first click of the shutter, or that first declaration.

The thing about these decisive moments – these turning points that hold the tension between stillness and action – is that they are happening all the time. It is up to us to say “This one! Here. Now.” That place of decision is where chance ends and magick begins.

I know many of us feel discouraged by these times, but I also see us rising up to meet our challenges. Forrest, who cannot speak with words, using a letter board, asked for a camera. He knew that this was his divine work: to capture images that tell the story of his soul.

The classic illustration of Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” is a photograph he took of a man stepping off some boards, heel about to touch down on water. One moment before or after, the picture would have told an entirely different story. That picture also changed the story of his life – from painter to photographer. What story do we wish to tell? Forrest Sargent seized a moment and changed his life, and the lives of his parents, and the lives of everyone who will look at his pictures and respond. We can too.

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