Thursday, May 30, 2013

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment

From Open Culture:
The geometric formalism of Renaissance painting and the serendipity of Surrealism were two key influences on Cartier-Bresson’s later work. A third came by accident, when he stumbled upon a reproduction of Martin Munk√°csi‘s “Three Boys at Lake Tanganyika.” 
The picture showed a group of African boys frolicking in the water. If the photographer had pressed the shutter a millisecond earlier or later, the magical, interlocking composition would not have existed. ”I suddenly understood that photography can fix eternity in a moment,” Cartier-Bresson later said. He gave up painting and bought his first Leica. 
Over the next half century Cartier-Bresson would travel the world with a Leica in one hand, the strap twisted around his wrist, ready to fix eternity at any moment. Inwardly he held onto the spirit of Surrealism while outwardly calling himself a photojournalist. As a photojournalist he witnessed some of the biggest events of the 20th century. He was with Gandhi a few minutes before he was assassinated in 1948. He was in China when the communists took over in 1949. 
”He was the Tolstoy of photography,” said Richard Avedon shortly after Cartier-Bresson’s death in 2004 at the age of 95. “With profound humanity, he was the witness of the 20th Century.”

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