Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer who is widely regarded as the father of modern photojournalism and master of candid photography along with an early adopter of the 35mm format.  He also influenced generations in Street Photograph & Real life Reportage.

As a young boy he owned a Box Brownie style camera using it for general snapshots carrying on to a view camera. During his teens after being inspired by his uncle, he became interested in painting. During his studies the continuous theoretical teachings helped him resolve faults with composition in photography.

Returning to France from Africa he turned to photography completely firstly acquiring a Leica camera with a 50mm lens. After he painted the shiny parts of the camera to increase anonymity and therefore the chance of keeping the candid expressions of his subjects.  He then took to the streets of Brussels, Berlin, Prague and Madrid while not photographing his native France until later life. In 1934 he met David Seymour and Robert Capa, Polish and Hungarian photographers who together they shared much culturally and it was Robert Capa that began Bresson’s move towards Photojournalism from Surrealism.

Cartier-Bresson first photojournalism assignment was for the French weekly newspaper Regards covering King George VI coronation in London. Focusing on the public celebrating on the streets he took no photographs of the King himself and when the photos were published the credit was simple Cartier as he was hesitant about using his full name.

During the second world war Bresson enlisted within the French army as a corporal in the Film and Audio Unit and in 1940 during the battle of France he was captured by German soldiers and after 35 months of hard labour, Solitary confinement he finally escaped and after digging up his Leica camera buried in a Farm he went underground with the resistance and along with other photographers went about capturing german occupation and in time the french return.

In 1947 Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, David Seymour and George Rodger formally of Life Magazine founded Magnum Photos, A co-operative photo agency owned by its members who split assignments amongst themselves. Magnums mission was to ‘feel the pulse’ of the time as they aimed to use photography in the service of humanity, and provided arresting, widely viewed images.

The Decisive Moment was published in 1952 consisting of 126 photos  from Gandhi’s funeral, the Chinese Civil War, last 6 months of the Maoist Peoples Republic and also the last surviving Imperial Eunuchs in Beijing which gave him international acclaim.

The other founders of Magnum Photos died in the middle to late 50’s and ten years later Cartier-Bresson stepped down as Principle and in 1968 started to turn away from photography back to his first passion of drawing and painting admitting that perhaps he had said all he could through photography. He retired from photography in the early 1970’s and within 5 years only took the occasional private portrait. he had said he kept his camera in a safe at his house and rarely used it. Henri Cartier-Bresson died in Montjustin, France  in 2004 at the age of 95 leaving a legacy for Life and Modern Photojournalism as we know it today.

Please see http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?ERID=24KL53ZMYN&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&VP3=CMS3 for a selection of Cartier Bresson images.


2 responses to “Henri Cartier-Bresson

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  2. Pingback: Assignment 5: Applying the Techniques of Illustration and Narrative | Chris Payne's OCA Blog·

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