First Impressions on Henri Cartier-Bresson
- He seems to look at his surroundings like he’s watching a play.
As I browse Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work at Magnum Photos, there’s no doubt he was observant, too observant actually. He had that ability to capture a character without missing to include the subject’s environment. It felt like he could see stories on the streets and he could capture that exactly how he interpret it, exactly how he want to retell the story.
SPAIN. Andalucia. Seville. 1933.
- He is the master of composition; geometry is life!
I could’t get enough of how things seem to fall into places in each of his work. Imagine how quick he was in choosing his subjects, seeing lines and shapes in the background, filling the frame with all the needed elements. And take note that he was using a film camera!
It seemed to me that Henri Cartier-Bresson had a clear idea of his core values, his interests, and his passion. I believe that no street photographer could have that talent to compose great photos in a split second if he is full of doubt of himself, and of his art.
GREECE. Cyclades. Island of Siphnos. 1961.
- He knew exactly when to pull the trigger
In photography, timing is important. And Henti Cartier-Bresson was exceptional when it comes to knowing when to click the shutter. In fact, he coined the term “the decisive moment”. I’ve heard that term from many street photographers of today and I didn’t know that it actually came from the man himself, the father of street photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson until recently!
It seemed to me that he was really sensitive to his surroundings. It felt like he could sense the pulse of the things around him, and that capturing the scene was a no-brainer. I couldn’t express in words how brilliant he was when it comes to grabbing that decisive moment, so let me just show you one of his popular photos:
Henri Cartier-Bresson 1932
FRANCE. Paris. Place de l’Europe. Gare Saint Lazare. 1932.
- He was a world-traveler, he was exposed to different cultures
He recorded some of the most significant periods in the history of the world. He traveled the world in great timing, too. He was lucky to be a photojournalist that he had the license to photograph people on the street, during the times where a film camera was as threatening as machine gun. Imagine, he was in China in 1948 (the Mao-era)!
I could sense his active engagement in world events but at the same time, there is also a feeling that he was somehow detached from his subjects. Looking at his work, it gives me an impression that he is there, a complete observer, seeing details and the larger picture at the same time.
CHINA. Shanghai. December 1948-January 1949.
There’s is no doubt, Henri Cartier-Bresson is one of the greatest street photographers of all time. He captured, with justice, the kind of men and women of his time and the kind of world they dealt with everyday.
Here’s my favorite Henri Cartier-Bresson work, so far.
SPAIN. 1933. Valencia.