Film clips from the exhibition ‘Henri Cartier-Bresson’ reveals the master photographer’s street shooting style.

Exhibit A’—a memorable exhibit chosen from one exhibition.

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Exhibit A:
A compilation of film clips showing Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908–2004) taking photographs with his Leica rangefinder camera on the streets.
A group of 6 still images showing Henri Cartier-Bresson taking photographs on the streets

Still images of the film clips from the exhibition showing Henri Cartier-Bresson taking photographs on the streets

Cartier-Bresson was light on his feet, he manoeuvred his tall and slender frame around like a sparrow with a dancer’s footwork. He was fast, slick, sneaky and an intense observer. Wearing leather gloves did not slow him down. With his camera on a short strap, he sometimes held it just behind his back while walking and surveying. Before his subjects even realised they’d just been photographed, he had already taken his shot poised on tiptoe and had moved on. You truly get a sense that you are watching a master at work.
Exhibit’s label:
Gjon Mili, Henri Cartier-Bresson photographing the Chinese New Year, NYC, 1956. Black and white film, silent, 3’. Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson Collection, Paris. Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York.
Roger Kahane, L’Aventure Moderne, 1962. Documentary film, black and white, sound, 29’ (excerpts). INA (ORTF) – 1962. Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson Collection, Paris.

Exhibition overview

You would have to be a real photography newbie not to have seen Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work before. His assignments as a photojournalist had appeared in major news publications world-wide, plus he is one of the most well-known photographers in the world. However, in this retrospective, you will probably find something you hadn’t seen before.

The exhibition includes pieces from his teenage years (such as his paintings, a photograph of Cartier-Bresson as a boy using a box camera in 1920), a brief period in motion picture-making and line drawings from his later years. It traces the stages of his life chronologically, separated by themes to show the evolution of his work. For example, influences from surrealist leader André Breton are evident in early photographs, such as Livorno (1933).

A man reading a newspaper, his head is superimposed by a curtain knot in the foreground

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Livorno, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Whenever possible, the exhibition shows the original prints contemporary with the time the photographs were taken in. This is intended to reflect the changing tones, printing styles (eg. sometimes photographs were printed with black borders), surface textures and format sizes over time. For the book that accompanies the exhibition, instead of scanning the original negatives, the illustrations are scans of vintage prints reproduced with their original tonality and inherent faults. Rather than use photographs simply as images to tell the story, the prints are treated as historic artefacts in their own right. That’s a nice detail to a well thought out narrative.

Go see: Henri Cartier-Bresson in action


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