Part three – Project 3 – Research Point : Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s documentary ‘L’amour tout court’ (‘Just plain love’ 2001)

Note: There is no sound available to parts 4 and 5, so the response below has only considered the subtitles from these parts.

Cartier-Bresson (b: 1908 – d: 2004) was a French photographer who pioneered street photography and is most famous for being the originator of the phrase the ‘decisive moment’.

He was from a privileged background and although he had a catholic upbringing he was very open-minded.  He played the flute as a child but soon realised that he was better at looking than listening. Later in life he put down his camera and turned to drawing but was still looking / observing.

He believed it was important to be receptive to your surroundings and situations and that, for him, form always came first; the geometry and physical rhythm of a place or subject was the priority, before lighting or anything else.  All moments are passing so it’s all about the framing and the geometry.  It is then for the photographer to decide when to press the shutter button.

His most famous photograph ‘Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, 1932’ was a result of accessibility and chance.  He did not know what he was capturing through the planks which had a gap just big enough to fit his camera lens through and couldn’t see through the viewfinder.   Cartier-Bresson believed it was luck, “It’s always luck.  It’s luck that matters.” [i].

Cartier-Bresson looked up to Giacometti and talked about him warmly, he recalls he called portraits shots ‘doing a head’ which he found amusing, which also gives an insight into his sense of humour.

I think he believed that the feelings of the photographer as expressed through a photograph should be shared by many to be successful and that trust between the photographer and the subject was important.

I’m glad I watched this documentary as it has provided life and colour to Cartier-Bresson which up to now for me has just been about the decisive moment and a number of revered black and white photographs.  I now understand more about his process, what he looks for when capturing his images and the personality behind the photography which is as important.

References

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson L’amour tout court Part1 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6l09YEeEpI&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part2 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfwNrPX2pvw&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF&index=2. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part3 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ea3E_8otCME&index=3&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part4 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBDV26UvaNA&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF&index=4. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part5 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-rHc2–Mv8&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF&index=5. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

Wikipedia. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Cartier-Bresson. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

Footnotes:

[i] Timestamp 0:56 : YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part2 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfwNrPX2pvw&list=PL707C8F898605E0BF&index=2. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

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