Today I got myself a book, a collection of photography by Henri Cartier-Bresson. He has a style that makes him a natural on any top ten photographer list. He was among the first to use 35mm film, and he usually shot in black and white. He often wrapped black tape around the camera’s chrome body to make it less conspicuous. With fast black and white film and sharp lenses, he was able to photograph events unnoticed.

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The decisive moment arrives at Hyeres, France (1932). 

 

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Children in Seville, Spain, 1933

As a teenager, Cartier-Bresson rebelled against his parents’ formal ways. Early in his adult life he drifted toward communism. But it was art that remained at the center of his life. In 1927 he began a two-year stint studying painting under noted early Cubist, André Lhote, then moved to Cambridge University to immerse himself further in art and literature courses.

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“I adore shooting photographs,” he’d later note. “It’s like being a hunter. But some hunters are vegetarians—which is my relationship to photography.” In short, as his frustrated editors would soon discover, Cartier-Bresson preferred taking shots rather than making prints and showing his work.

His ability to “capture the moment” which is his trademark is clearly evident on multiple levels.

  • Stopping the man at the perfect moment
  • Realizing the effect of the reflection
  • Awareness of the figure on the billboard which parallels the man.
  • Awareness of the standing man in the background to contrast the dynamism of the walking/running man

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For most of his career, he mostly used a 35mm lenses to take his captures, at first due to financial reasons, later, even after he could use other lenses, because he was just awesome at it.

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