of the week #2: Henri Cartier-Bresson

The concept of street photography seems such a convenient one. Simply take:

1x photographer
1x camera

take to your nearby streets and public places to document and capture. I don’t know many photographers who haven’t given in to the temptation of walking around the block hoping to shoot dozens of emotionally rich images charged with commentaries of society and life today. (And failed.)

Street photography is, as they say, harder than it looks. As I’m becoming increasingly interested with this style of photography, I thought I’d focus photographer of the week #2 on one of the most beloved masters of photography: Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Hello Henri:

Henri Cartier-Bresson was born in Seine-et-Marne, France on August 22, 1908 and passed away aged 95 on August 3, 2004. This French photographer helped to develop what we now consider to be street photography. Previously a talented painter and draughtsman, Cartier-Bresson viewed photography as a method of creating ‘instant’ paintings and drawings and approached photography in a fine art mindset.

Adopting a Leica rangefinder 35mm camera, Cartier-Bresson took to the streets to take photos as inconspicuously as possible, even covering his camera with black tape for concealment. Loyal to ‘straight photography’ processes, he attained to capture decisive moments to immortalise even the faintest poignant glance or movement.

His street photography style has influenced countless contemporary photographers, with many citing him as an important point of inspiration for their own work. Here are a a few of my favourites:

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s images capture moments we really don’t register ourselves throughout our own lives. Our individual, intrinsic reactions scarcely seem significant; we may question why a photographer would even want to photograph a look, a movement or a gesture – people simply live, behave and react.

Seeing it outside of ourselves; in this case via photographs; places the mundane in a different light. By holding up a metaphorical (some may say literal) mirror, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s images let us in on a pause of ‘the everyday’. He is saying this moment, right here, is significant. It’s up to you how you interpret that significance. By revealing character as well as culture, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s images epitomise the beauty of truth and importance of spontaneity; true gifts to photography.

“There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.”
Henri Cartier-Bresson


  1. Pingback: of the week #3 « dawnschuck

  2. Pingback: ethics and fine art photography « dawnschuck

  3. Pingback: street photography inspiration « dawnschuck

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