Driving a nail
Thanks to Jeremy for pointing out the New York Times’s obituary for Henri Cartier-Bresson. It contains this quote from the photographer:
My contact sheets may be compared to the way you drive a nail in a plank. First you give several light taps to build up a rhythm and align the nail with the wood. Then, much more quickly, and with as few strokes as possible, you hit the nail forcefully on the head and drive it in.
I’m unlikely to ever see those contact sheets, so I have to rely on clues like this one from the obit:
Photographers and others who saw him work talked about his swift and nimble ability to snap a picture undetected (sometimes he even masked the shiny metal parts of his camera with black tape). They also admired his coolness under pressure. Louis Malle remembered that despite all the turmoil at the peak of the student protests in Paris, in May 1968, Cartier-Bresson took photographs at the rate of only about four per hour.