HENRI Cartier-Bresson. <br><br>The photographer of geometry, that means a structure. | meetyourMOOD

30 November 2017

HENRI Cartier-Bresson.

The photographer of geometry, that means a structure.

Photo top left by Rui Palha

In one of the last MOOD boards, the one about the importance of drawing here, I choose a quote by Henri Cartier-Bresson, French humanist photographer considered a master of candid photography, pioneer of the genre of street photography, and viewed photography as capturing a decisive moment.

[An instagrammer!?]

And so, I decided to dedicate the Icon column to him, to the understanding of his view through quotes and images.

The story of  Cartier-Bresson begins in 1929, when the air squadron commandant placed him under house arrest for hunting without a license. There, Henri met American expatriate Harry Crosby, who persuaded the commandant to release Cartier-Bresson into his custody for a few days. Their common interest in photography, took Harry to present Henri with his first camera.

They spent their time together taking and printing pictures at Crosby's home, Le Moulin du Soleil [The Sun Mill], near Paris in Ermenonville, France.

Returning to France, Cartier-Bresson recuperated in Marseille in late 1931 and deepened his relationship with the Surrealists.

"In photography, the smallest thing 
can be a great subject. The little human detail 
can become a leitmotiv. "

In Marseilles he acquired the Leica 35 mm rangefinder camera fitted with a normal 50 mm lens [ only occasionally he would have used a wide-angle lens for landscapes] that would accompany him for many years. Photographers have always realized that this allowed him to focus his attention so that he always knew exactly what would be in his frame without needing a viewfinder. He could walk the streets, draw his camera up to his eye and shoot, all in one smooth, unobtrusive. here

The anonymity that the small camera gave him in a crowd or during an intimate moment was essential in overcoming the formal and unnatural behavior of those who were aware of being photographed. He even often wrapped black tape around the camera's chrome body to make it less conspicuous.


“Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, 
in the confines of one single photograph, of 
some situation that was in the process of 
unrolling itself before my eyes.” 

Reading through his lines, gives me the time to think about what being a photographer is?
A photographer is in a certain way able to see in the future, has an instinct to prediction, has to feel that the moment is coming and start clicking a fraction of an instant before the perfect one. You have to learn to observe, to improve the intuition.

The Leica opened up new possibilities in photography, the ability to capture the world in its actual state of movement and transformation.
Leica M2, had one clear advantage: framelines for 35mm lenses. The viewfinder of the Leica M2 was the first to feature the 0.72x magnification ratio and the 35-50-90mm frameline set which became the standard for all later M-mount models. What makes the M2 especially awesome is the fact that the viewfinder is large, bright, and uncluttered, as for each focal length only one frameline is shown at a time, unlike the later models that show framelines pairs for two focal lengths at a time.

Leica M3. was indeed the camera that started the M-series and is by many considered to be the best camera to use with 50mm lenses (due to its high magnification viewfinder),
eica opted for 50-90-135mm framelines in the M3 thephoblographer.com

“Photographers deal in things which are continually 
vanishing and when they have vanished 
there is no contrivance on earth which can make 
them come back again ... life is very fluid. 
Well sometimes the pictures disappeared 
and there is nothing you can do. You 
can’t tell the person, oh, please smile again 
do that gesture again. Life is once, forever."

In early 1947, Cartier-Bresson, with Robert Capa, David Seymour, William Vandivert and George Rodger founded Magnum Photos.
Magnum's mission was to "feel the pulse" of the times and some of its first projects were People Live Everywhere, Youth of the World, Women of the World and The Child Generation. Magnum aimed to use photography in the service of humanity, and provided arresting, widely viewed images.

"If I go to a place, its to try and have a picture 
which concretises a situation which wonder, 
glances everything and which has a strong relations 
of shapes which for me is essential for 
me its a visual pleasure."

"I had been living in India for about a year even 
more and problem of demography, immensity 
of space, of people preoccupied me very much. 
I like to live in a place, I don’t like to go for short. 
What is made with time, time will 
respect it or something like this."

He never photographed with flash, a practice he saw as "impolite...like coming to a concert with a pistol in your hand."

Henri believed in composing his photographs in the viewfinder, not in the darkroom. He showcased this belief by having nearly all his photographs printed only at full-frame and completely free of any cropping or other darkroom manipulation. He insisted that his prints were not cropped as they include the first few millimeters of the unexposed negative around the image area, resulting in a black frame around the developed picture.
“A photograph is neither taken or seized by force. 
It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you. 
One must not take photos.” 

In 1952, Cartier-Bresson published his book Images à la sauvette, whose English-language edition was titled The Decisive Moment. It included a portfolio of 126 of his photos from the East and the West. The book's cover was drawn by Henri Matisse. For his 4,500-word philosophical preface, Cartier-Bresson took his keynote text from the 17th century Cardinal de Retz, "Il n'y a rien dans ce monde qui n'ait un moment decisif" ("There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment")

"I love life, I love human beings, 
I hate people also. You see the camera, it can be a machine gun. 
It can be a psychoanalytical couch. It can be a warm kiss. 
It can be a sketch book, the camera. And even for me, 
that’s strictly my way of feeling, I enjoy shooting a picture, 
being present and it’s a way of saying yes, yes, yes"

"Facts are not interesting. It’s a point of view 
on facts which is important and in photography 
it is re-evocation if you evoke and this consists evoking." 
“This recognition, in real life, of a 
rhythm of surfaces, lines, and values is 
for me the essence of photography; composition 
should be a constant of preoccupation, being 
a simultaneous coalition – an organic 
 coordination of visual elements.”

"If I take the picture from there its another arrangement of there there, there, and its all about arrangement of small moves I’m doing. Im not jumping up and down. It’s a relation between your nose, your eyes, the window behind and that’s my pleasure…to establish these relations. [...] There is a rhyme between different elements. There is a square here, rectangle and other rectangle…see its all these problems which I’m preoccupied with. The greatest joy for me is geometry that means a structure.You can’t go shooting for shapes or patterns and all this but its a sensuous pleasure, an intellectual pleasure at the same time to have everything at the right place. It’s a recognition of an order which is in front of you."

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