Back to this, here was what Bresson has to say about his approach.
" "Manufactured' or staged photography does not concern me. And if I make a judgment, it can only be on a psychological or sociological level. There are those who take photographs arranged beforehand and those who go out to discover the image and seize it. For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which - in visual terms - questions and decides simultaneously. In order to "give a meaning" to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what he frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. One must always take photos with the greatest respect for the subject and for oneself." - Henri Cartier-Bresson
I love his work and I totally think that there's a place for the photojournalistic style that he has portrayed with such excellence.
My point in posting the other link was because not too many people do the true PJ style. There could be a whole post or more on learning to "see creatively" instead of snapshot photography, just about shooting photojournalistically.
Right now the trend seems to be setting up a shot, but making it look PJ. And there's the "I don't know how to see creatively" set. Since we have all skill levels here.
I truly believe that a creative photographer will out-strip the rules every time. But in my years of working with other photographers, I've seen that many people have a hard time seeing "outside the box" and being creative with their photography. Creativity does set a photographer apart from the masses of "man with a camera". Sometimes visual aides will get them on a "creative thinking" spree. Sometimes not.
Am I saying that the best photographers follow the rules all the time? Nope. I saw this photograph (here on potn) yesterday. It was of a woman laying down. That's it. Converted to B&W. Hand cut off. That's what the photo technically was and if a person wanted to be critical, that's all they would see...rules. But artistically, the light was beautiful, the mood was seductive. It was an arresting shot. Technically the hand should not have been cut off, true. But the shot was truly beautiful and excellent handling of the light and model far outstripped the hand, to the point that it wasn't noticeable in the scope of things.
I am also not saying that people can ignore the rules and be masters. Sometimes people see things and don't know how to accomplish it. I can't tell you how many "candid street shots" I see after a conversation on Bresson. But just because a shot is a "candid street shot" does not make it Bresson quality. It's learning how to see...Bresson (as you so aptly quoted) was involved with his shots. He set them up in his mind as he shot them. Too many people think that sitting at a cafe table and snapping photos while the camera is sitting on the table, or surreptitiously taking a snap, is that same sort of work. And very RARELY is that the case. Mostly it is just a snapshot that may or may not have some interest. The important thing is learning that it's not the same quality. And why it's not. And how to move from random snapping to master photographer.
Back to the "setting up". For most, imo, it's less "staging" than it is, learning to see creatively. Which is something we can learn about, by being open and looking at what we see, why we like it and how we can accomplish it. So I find it liberating to not feel that I have to catch everything PJ, just as I find it liberating to not have to stage everything. There's a place for it all, in this art of ours.
FWIW, I think that SMWYG is just a small part of the "process" in growing as a photog. Though I've never entered this contest, I've learned a lot through the last 4 years. It's been very enlightening. Just in judging/viewing everyone's shots, it's taught me to see beyond my box. And make no mistake, we all have boxes. No matter how "liberal" our thinking is, we've made ourselves boxes and thinking, as well as seeing, beyond them is very difficult. Getting past our own egos/feelings/opinions, can be very difficult. But I can see, as people open up and are willing to see things from another perspective, magnitudes of growth/changes happen in their work. The difference in 4 years is astonishing, for nearly everyone who's participated that long.