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Henri Cartier-Bresson Essay

INTRO
Henri Cartier-Bresson is among some of the most influential photographers of the 20th century. His photographs appear in most popular magazines such as, Life, Harpers Bazaar, Vogue and also co founding Magnum Photo Agency. Cartier-Bresson pursued photography with an impulsive passion that he refined into a photojournalistic art form. He is also well know for coining the phrase “The Decisive Moment” in photography, which is capturing the moment something is happening creating a photograph that leaves the viewer waiting. In better terms the decisive moment is “the one that fixes forever the precise and transitory instant.” It is important to keep in mind each picture was exposed on film and could only be viewed after the film was developed;…

He can easily be called the father of modern photojournalism. He helped popularize 35 mm film by capturing candid photographs. He used a 35mm Leica with a 50mm lens. The camera was quite small, which allowed the photographer to move easily among people. Cartier-Bresson’s influence can also be seen in street photography and real life reportage. In many interviews Bresson explained his focus was initially geometry and worked with the golden ratio frequently. Over his career he photographed many diverse subjects, “He was there for the Spanish Civil War and the Chinese revolution. He documented George VIs coronation and told the story of Khrushchevs Russia. His subjects ranged from Che Guevara to Marilyn Monroe, while his magazine clients ran the gamut, including not just Life, but Harpers Bazaar, Vogue and many others.” After some of the photographers travels he returned to France in 1952 to published his first book, The Decisive Moment. A quote by Cartier-Bresson that describes the concept of the decisive moment thoroughly is “To take photographs means to recognize– simultaneously and within a fraction of a second– both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning.” Cartier-Bresson tells the importance of “the fact itself” the subject matter and “rigorous organization of perceived forms” composition,…

Surprisingly the photograph defined Cartier-Bresson’s career was ironically one of only two pictures he cropped. He despised darkroom editing techniques and to prevent his editors from cropping, he sent his pictures framed with a black. Although, behind the train station, he couldn’t do this: “There was a plank fence around some repairs behind the Gare Saint Lazare train station. I happened to be peeking through a gap in the fence with my camera at the moment the man jumped. The space between the planks was not entirely wide enough for my lens, which is the reason why the picture is cut off on the left,” he explained. Behind the Saint-Lazare station is often used to show the idea of the decisive moment, the image leaves you wondering: does the man make it or land in the puddle? Where is he going in such a rush and why not avoid the puddle? All the questions arise when looking at the photograph. Cartier-Bresson explains how a photographer’s memory and intuition are incredibly important, “Memory is very important, particularly in respect to the recollection of every picture youve taken while youve been galloping at the speed of the scene itself. The photographer must make sure, while he is still in the presence of the unfolding scene, that he hasnt left any gaps, that he has really given expression to the meaning of the scene…

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