Saturday, December 7, 2013

More Than Meets the Eye

Henri Cartier-Bresson, a world-famous photographer based in America, set the stage for street photography, and is regarded as one of the greatest street photographers of all time. Without his work, photography may not be where it is today.

Cartier-Bresson’s street photography invites the viewer to take an up-front approach to his photos. His prints transport the viewer to the time period and place where they were originally shot instantly. Cartier-Bresson did not use trickery or techniques to disguise the ordinary people that graced his photos. Instead, the subjects are seen without flair, without pomp and circumstance, going about their daily business without much notice to the camera that is capturing them. In addition to the shots of daily living, Cartier-Bresson managed to capture the scene around him with an incredibly simplistic, yet exquisite mood that is rather striking. The following selection of his photographs are some of the best Cartier-Bresson has to offer.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Prostitu√©es, 1934, 

Photograph, Magnum Photos, HCB1934003W00003C

The fact that the subject matter Cartier-Bresson chose for this photograph is a couple of prostitutes is striking in and of itself. The women seem to be completely comfortable with him photographing them, especially the woman on the right, who is staring straight into the camera with an almost defiant look on her face. Cartier-Bresson’s approach to street photography is well-captured in this photograph. This is an un-intrusive look into an area of life not normally captured. He has shown the women not as prostitutes, but as two women posing for a portrait, something that takes a lot of skill.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Torcello in the Venetian Lagoon, 1953 

Photograph, Magnum Photos, HCB1953010W02021/11

The definition of street photography is that there is a person in it. This shot of Cartier-Bresson’s is unlike most of his work in that the person is not the focus of the photograph. Instead, the woman running across the bridge is almost an afterthought. It may be tempting to ask if this even is street photography. However, this shot does a wonderful job of emulating the wide range of what street photography can entail.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Untitled, 1932 

Photograph, Magnum Photos, HCB1932001W0066BC

This photograph takes an approach similar to the previous image in that the person in the photograph is not really the main focus. However, though it may appear as though the stairs are the main focus of this photograph, Cartier-Bresson’s goal was not to take an image of a staircase. He knew exactly what he was doing when he framed this shot. The geometric patterns, lines, and shapes are beautifully captured. Cartier-Bresson opened his eyes to see his environment not as it first appeared, but took the time to examine and search for the formal elements that make beautiful composition and frame. In this photograph, the spiral of the stairs and curve of the road all lead the viewer’s eye to the path of the bicyclist in motion.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Untitled, 1933

Photograph, Magnum Photos, HCB1933005W00005C

This shot is particularly engaging because it puts the viewer on the children’s level, as unobtrusively as possible. This was one of Cartier-Bresson’s traits. It is said the Cartier-Bresson often covered up all of his camera except the lens, giving him the ability to take unposed, truly candid shots of his subjects, which were often children. He definitely made the most of a time period when a man could take a photograph of a child and not be questioned.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Untitled, 1933

Photograph, Magnum Photos, HCB1933005W00001C

Before becoming a budding photographer, Cartier-Bresson was actually a painter. This came out in his photography in the aesthetic and romantic elements reflective of the painters of his time. This photograph is a wonderful example of this. The lazy, dreamy qualities framed in this photograph could easily be a painting. Having that mindset while shooting gave Cartier-Bresson a high ideal to strive for, something he achieved rather successfully.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Untitled, 1932

Photograph, Magnum Photos, HCB1932004W00002C

Cartier-Bresson often spoke of the “Decisive Moment” when he decided to capture a shot. Sometimes it was spontaneous, but other times it required waiting patiently. This photograph, perhaps one of his most famous photographs, is a beautiful example of Cartier-Bresson’s “Decisive Moment.” He didn’t always seek out the moment; he let the moment come to him.

No comments:

Post a Comment