Henri Cartier-Bresson, the French father of photojournalism and street photography, was born on August 22, 1908. Son of a wealthy textile merchant, he disappointed his father by pursuing his interest in photography rather than taking over the family business. He studied painting, which greatly influenced his ideas of composition. As he was coming into his own artistically, he became friends with many Surrealists. His ideas about photography shifted definitively when he saw a spontaneous photograph of boys playing in a wave. This led to the development of his “decisive moment” style of street photography. He used a Leica with a small body and painted any shiny parts on it black so that he could photograph without being noticed. Cartier-Bresson shunned using a flash, which he considered impolite. He traveled Europe trying to “trap” life.
Life came at him full-on in World War II. Cartier-Bresson was serving in the film and photo unit when he was captured and required to perform hard manual labor for 35 months before he escaped from the Nazis and joined the Resistance. After the war, he became one of the founding members of Magnum Photos and became a portrait photographer. Ironically, he intensely disliked having his own portrait taken. By 1975, he turned again to drawing and painting and stored his faithful Leica. He died on August 3, 2004 at the age of 95. Shortly before his death, he and his family created La Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, located at 2 Impasse Lebouis. This light-filled space has regular photography exhibits and gives an annual prize for photography.
Today’s quotation was one that Cartier-Bresson borrowed from a 17th century Cardinal “Il n’y a rien dans ce monde qui n’ait un moment décisif” (rel knee a ree-N dah suh mohnd key nay uh momehn day-see-seef), which means “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.” “The Decisive Moment“ was also the English title of his 1952 book. What was yours, or is it time to go out and trap life?
- The Extraordinary Life and Art of Henri Cartier-Bresson Revealed in 1998 Documentary (openculture.com)
- Henri Cartier-Bresson, Vélodrome D’Hiver, Paris, 1950′s. The 6 day races. (ikissmybikegoodnight.com)
- The Henri Cartier-Bresson Award (td365.wordpress.com)