27 May 2011

Henri Cartier Bresson - photographer philosopher

"There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment". - HCB

Henri Cartier Bresson, is probably one of the most revered and well known photographers. Much though, he was quiet a low key guy and thats probably one of the reasons why there are very few  portraits of his from his early days. He however, redefined the photography and what we know today as street photography is probably his giving. However, in my mind, HCB was an artist at core, as most of you would know, he learnt painting and sketching as a young boy and took to photography later. That he ended his career by going back to sketching is an indication enough, that painting and sketching was closer to his heart. "Photography is like a blunt edge whereas painting is more meditative". 

"Photography is not like painting," Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post in 1957. "There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative," he said. "Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.

I can go on and on, he was just as masterful with his words and thoughts as he was in his art. There is quiet a lot you could read about him, if you like. Here are few good web resources,
Magnum Photos - He cofounded
HCB Foundation
HCB Wikipedia

To hear him speak is itself a lesson in photography. He is almost philosophical about his art. He doesn't talk about any rules, light, framing technique, camera or film. Its quiet obvious that his style has over years inspired street photographers to come out with standard rules - the juxtaposition, the humor, the light, the story and so on. He doesnt talk about it - for him he says, its a way of life.

"To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life."

It is also interesting to hear HCB views on photojournalism, aka reportage. He says he found it quiet boring, preferring the surrealism instead. Wouldn't you agree, that it is the photographers vision, his point of view which would make a photograph interesting, just the way same facts can be stated by two different journalists in different ways. One interesting, the other just plain facts.

If you closely look at his work, his photographs have a certain sense of balance which is not so easy to define by stated rules of composition. You know what i mean, the rule of thirds, patterns etc. HCB definitely worked on the visuals and thats why his work stands out. He says,

"If I go to a place, I try and have a picture which concretizes a situation which at one glance says everything, which has strong relationship of shapes, which for me in the central thing, for me its the visual pleasure. The greatest joy for me is geometry, the structure. You cannot go out shooting for shapes and patterns but its a sensuous pleasure to have everything in the right place - the recognition of an order."

Hear him talk about photography, describe some of his shots, why he likes them. His passion for his art is evident, in his words. Hope it inspires you as much as it inspires me to go out and shoot.

Updated: The awesome video is unfortunately gone :-) Instead this is a good collection of his work.

Enjoy the video and let me know your views.


mayankpandey said...

I have heard him talk on this video for, i dont know how many times. I just cant seem to get enough! 

Zephyr said...

A truly enlightening video. I can totally understand why you have watched it so many times :)

magiceye said...

yes yes yesss!!!

very insightful!

mayankpandey said...

yes yes.. that was so phenomenal, isnt it magiceye. I know you would have loved it. Every photographer will.

mayankpandey said...

small pleasures of life Zephyr! thanks.