Last Updated July 13, 2018

Henri Cartier-Bresson

French (Born 1908 - Died 2004 ) FREE LISTING
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Paris
France



Street
Influence: Historically influential or important






DESCRIPTION / BIOGRAPHY
Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French humanist photographer considered a master of candid photography, and an early user of 35 mm film. He pioneered the genre of street photography, and viewed photography as capturing a 'decisive moment'. His work has influenced many photographers.

Born in France, Cartier-Bresson developed a strong fascination with painting early on, and particularly with Surrealism. In 1932, after spending a year in the Ivory Coast, he discovered the Leica – his camera of choice after that moment – and began a life-long passion for photography. In 1933, he had his first exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. He later made films with Jean Renoir.

Taken prisoner of war in 1940, he escaped on his third attempt in 1943 and subsequently joined an underground organization to assist prisoners and escapees. In 1945, he photographed the liberation of Paris with a group of professional journalists and then filmed the documentary Le Retour (The Return).

In 1947, with Robert Capa, George Rodger, David ‘Chim’ Seymour and William Vandivert, he founded Magnum Photos. After three years he had spent travelling in the East, in 1952, he returned to Europe, where he published his first book, Images à la Sauvette (published in English as The Decisive Moment). He explained his approach to photography in these terms, ‘”For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.”

From 1968, he began to curtail his photographic activities, preferring to concentrate on drawing and painting. In 2003, with his wife and daughter, he created the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris for the preservation of his work. Cartier-Bresson received an extraordinary number of prizes, awards, and honorary doctorates. He died at his home in Provence on 3 August 2004, a few weeks short of his 96th birthday.

Cartier-Bresson nearly always used a Leica 35 mm rangefinder camera fitted with a normal 50 mm lens, or occasionally a wide-angle lens for landscapes, and 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.

Cartier-Bresson worked almost exclusively in black and white and he never photographed with flash, a practice he saw as 'impolite...like coming to a concert with a pistol in your hand.'

Other notable quotes include – 'it's like hunting, but we don't kill...' and... 'You have to be as unobtrusive as possible because unfortunately the camera is a very noticeable thing.'

He 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.

The Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation hosts Henri Cartier-Bresson and Martine Franck’s archives. The collection is made-up of vintage prints, contact sheets and other information. It is housed in the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, 2, Impasse Lebouis, 75014 Paris.

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