05 October 2013

Photographers Who Inspire Me:
Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson (born 1908 in Chanteloup-en-Brie, France)
(died 2004 in Montjustin, France)

Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered the pioneer of photojournalism and was regarded as a leading creative force of his time. He coined the term 'the decisive moment' -- that fleeting moment of inspiration that a photographer has to capture an instant in time. His passion and wanderlust took him to the four corners of the earth, where he documented both the great suffering and great joy of humanity. His skill and perseverance helped establish photojournalism as an art form. 

Throughout his childhood, Cartier-Bresson showed a keen interest in the arts. As a young adult, he went on to study painting and literature at Cambridge University, England, which is also where he was introduced to photography. After his studies, he acquired a hand-held Leica camera and photography became his new passion. In 1935, Cartier-Bresson abandoned photography and worked as an assistant to prominent French filmmaker Jean Renoir. He collaborated with the director on several films, including the renowned La règle du jeu (1939). Later, Cartier-Bresson served in the French army and was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1940. After several failed attempts, he finally escaped in 1943 and promptly returned to his photography and film work. He was one of the founders of Magnum Photos, which remains, to this day, one of the leading photo agencies in the world. 

I am profoundly inspired, not only by the humanity shown in Cartier-Bresson's work, but by his precise, geometric framing and his remarkable sense of timing. I aspire to capture moments the way he did and that will take an awful lot of practice, training and courage on my part. Believe me when I say that I am up for the challenge!   

Hyères. France. 1932. © Henri Cartier-Bresson Archive

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

SPAIN. Andalucia. Seville. 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson Archive 

'"For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression."

Rue Mouffetard. Paris. 1954. © Henri Cartier-Bresson Archive 

“Of all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes a precise moment in time.”


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