Henri Cartier-Bresson - Masters of Photography

"Inside movement there is one moment in which the elements are in balance". Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson (Chanteloup-en-Brie, 22nd August 1908 – L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, 3rd August 2004) was a French photographer, considered by a lot of people the father of photojournalism.

After the studies of his youth, Henri was soon attracted by painting, thanks to his uncle Louis, and he started his studies with Jaques-Emile Blanche and André Lhote that will introduce him to the French surrealists, initially uninterested in photography.

Only later, in 1930, during a journey in Côte d'Ivoire, cause of his continuous pursuit to immortal reality, he bought his first camera, a Leica 35mm with a 50mm lens that will accompany him for many years.

During 1931 he worked in the movies as the assistant of the French director Jean Renoir and, in 1937, he direct personally Victoire de la vie.

Meanwhile, in 1934, he knew David Szymin, a polish photographer and intellectual, that later will change his name in David Seymour (1911-1956). They became good friends in no time, they had much in common culturally. It'll be Szymin to introduce to the young Bresson a Hungarian photographer, Endré Friedmann, that later will be remembered with the name of Robert Capa.

During World War 2, Cartier-Bresson joined the French resistance, keeping up constantly his photographic activity.

In 1947 he established, with Robert Capa and David Seymour, the famed Magnum Agency. He begun several journeys where he did many reportages that gave him a world renown.

Photography brought Henri in many corners of the planet: China, Mexico, Canada, United States, Cuba, India, Japan, Soviet Union and many other countries. Cartier-Bresson became the first western photographer that photographed freely in the Soviet Union in the postwar period. In 1968, Henri Cartier-Bresson gradually started reducing his photographic activity to devote to his first artistic love: painting.

During 1979 in New York is organized a tribute exhibition for the genius of photojournalism and reportage. In 2000 he created with his wife Martine Franck and his daughter Mèlanie the Henri Carter-Bresson Foundation, that had as its main goal the collection of his works and the establishment of an exhibition room open to other artists; in 2002 the foundation has been recognized by the French government as an agency of public utility. He died in Cèreste, (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France) the 3rd August 2004, he was 95 years old.

In his career he also portrayed important personalities of any field, Balthus, Albert Camus, Truman Capote, Coco Chanel, Marcel Duchamp, William Faulkner, Mahatma Gandhi, John Huston, Martin Luther King, Henri Matisse, Marilyn Monroe, Richard Nixon, Robert Oppenheimer, Jean-Paul Sartre and Igor Stravinsky. Since Cartier-Bresson's death, to avoid capitalizations untied by the artistic value of the works, the foundation doesn't authorize anymore the printing of the master's photos, offering however an authentication service of any printing in circulation in galleries or antiquarians. In a letter dated 20th October 2000, to avoid printing commerce or the sale of stolen copies, the photographer himself declared: “I, the undersigned, Henri Cartier-Bresson, domiciled at 198 rue de Rivoli 75001 Paris, declare what follows – I have always signed and autographed my photographs to the people I wished to give them to – all other prints, that are only identified with a "Henri Cartier-Bresson" stamp or a "Magnum Photos" stamp, belong to my own person. Therefore, anyone in possession of such a print cannot possibly claim in good faith that he or she owns it".


- As we already said in 1968 Henri Cartier-Bresson left photography to go back to painting declaring: "The photograph itself doesn't interest me. I want only to capture a minute part of reality".

- During the 90s 551 Henri Cartier-Bresson pictures were destroyed, the news appeared on the newspaper Le Monde. The shots were given to the State by the same Cartier-Bresson and thrown in the garbage because damaged. A treasure lost forever. ù

- The most famous Cartier-Bresson’s book is "The decisive moment", Simonand Schuster, New York. The French title is Images à la sauvette. Written in 1952, further than containing a collection of some of the most famous pictures

Henri Cartier-Bresson L'amour tout court Part 1

Henri Cartier-Bresson L'amour tout court Part 2

Henri Cartier-Bresson L'amour tout court Part 3

Henri Cartier-Bresson L'amour tout court Part 4

Henri Cartier-Bresson L'amour tout court Part 5

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) was a French photographer considered to be the father of modern photojournalism, an early adopter of 35 mm format, and the master of candid photography. He helped develop the "street photography" style that has influenced generations of photographers that followed.

Trained as a painter, he began his career in photography in 1931 on a trip to the Ivory Coast. He was one of the first photographers to shoot in the 35mm format with a Leica camera, and helped to develop the photojournalistic "street photography" style that influenced generations of photographers to come.

It was there on the Côte d'Ivoire that he contracted blackwater fever, which nearly killed him. Returning to France, Cartier-Bresson recuperated in Marseille in 1931 and deepened his relationship with the Surrealists. He became inspired by a photograph by Hungarian photojournalist Martin Munkacsi...

Cartier-Bresson said: "The only thing which completely was an amazement to me and brought me to photography was the work of Munkacsi. When I saw the photograph of Munkacsi of the black kids running in a wave I couldn't believe such a thing could be caught with the camera. I said damn it, I took my camera and went out into the street."

The photograph inspired him to stop painting and to take up photography seriously. He explained, "I suddenly understood that a photograph could fix eternity in an instant".

He acquired the Leica camera with 50 mm lens in Marseilles that would accompany him for many years. He described the Leica as an extension of his eye.

Cartier-Bresson is well known for his concept of the "decisive moment" in photography. He defined this moment as "the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which gave that event its proper expression During his photographic career Cartier-Bresson photographed all over the world - Mexico, Canada, USA, Europe, India, Burma, Pakistan, Indonesia, Africa, Burma, China, Japan, Cuba, and the USSR, among other places. He also photographed many famous personalities and artists of the 20th century, including Matisse, Picasso, Coco Chanel, Truman Capote, and Gandhi. His interest in the visual arts also extended to film - he made films with Jean Renoir, Jacques Becker and André Zvoboda and a documentary on Republican Spain (1937).

During the Second World War Cartier-Bresson was taken prisoner by the Germans and escaped, then photographed the occupation and liberation of France. During this time rumors reached the USA that he had been killed, and the Museum of Modern Art began to prepare a "posthumous" show. Cartier-Bresson later spent a year in the US helping to prepare this show. In 1947 Cartier-Bresson co-founded the photographic cooperative Magnum along with fellow photographers Robert Capa, George Rodger, David Seymour, Bill Vandivert and others.

Valuing his anonymity as a tool for capturing decisive moments with his camera, Cartier-Bresson did not like to be photographed, and shot with a Leica camera which was smaller, quieter and less intrusive than other cameras.
Cartier-Bresson retired from photography in the early 1970s and by 1975 no longer took pictures other than an occasional private portrait; he said he kept his camera in a safe at his house and rarely took it out. He returned to drawing and painting. After a lifetime of developing his artistic vision through photography, he said, "All I care about these days is painting — photography has never been more than a way into painting, a sort of instant drawing".

Cartier-Bresson is regarded as one of the art world's most unassuming personalities. He disliked publicity and exhibited a ferocious shyness since his days in hiding from the Nazis during World War II. He hated to be photographed and treasured his privacy above all. Photographs of Cartier-Bresson do exist, but they are scant. When he accepted an honorary degree from Oxford University in 1975, he held a paper in front of his face to avoid being photographed. He did recall that he once confided his innermost secrets to a Paris taxi driver, certain that he would never meet the man again.

The Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation was created by Cartier-Bresson and his wife and daughter in 2002 to preserve and share his legacy www.henricartierbresson.org

Cartier-Bresson photos A photographic gallery of Bresson made of more than 50 pictures foun on the Magnum Photos agency website here: Henri Cartier-Bresson Portfolio.

I've found on youtube a wonderful video entitled Henri Cartier-Bresson à propos de Paris.

Translation by Nina Kozul

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