Idolatry is subtle…we all have our hidden idols mine is Henri Cartier-Bresson.
“All photos in this blog post is © Henri Cartier-Bresson”
Mr. Cartier-Bresson trained as a painter under André Lhote, before moving to Africa to become a photographer in 1931. He was, in his own words, constantly searching for the “Decisive Moment”. He worked as a photojournalist in Europe, India, Africa and in North and South America, and founded the photography agency “Magnum” in Paris in 1947 together with Robert Capa. In the same year, the Museum of Modern Art in New York honoured him with a comprehensive retrospective. Cartier-Bresson is still considered one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century to this day.
The distinctive Cartier-Bresson Style
I simply love his work, his use of geometry, composition, grain and contrast is an endless resource for learning. Studying his photos makes it obvious that he has a background as an painter, the composition of his images he integrated vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines, curves, shadows, triangles, circles, and squares to his lead the observers eye. His use of “Negative Space” and “Rule of Odds” is just inspiring. Together with his use of contrast makes him my favorite photographer.
In many ways Cartier-Bresson is a minimalist, one of his mantras was “Stick to one lens”. Though his work made him use a range of lenses, he rarely shot with anything else than his 50mm if he was shooting for himself. By being faithful to that lens for decades, the camera truly became a part of himself “an extension of his eye”.
Cartier-Bresson is the best street photographer that I have seen. His ability to stay as low-key as possible as he could enabled him to shoot photos of situations, people and children like no one else. I can recommend watching videos of him, and you will see that he possessed great dexterity enabling him to be agile and quick when bringing the camera up to his eye shoot and then move on before anybody can notice he was even there.
Being a Purist
He believed that whenever you took a photo, it should always be done in-camera. And he would disregard the image and retake the shot, rather than cropping to get the compositions he craved for. I am not sure I agree with him on that point, while I believe his views was dictated by time and the technical opportunities his era possessed. That being said is his attitude still an inspiration, and I try to live by that, getting most of my work done in camera, while post processing isn’t as true towards the scenario as if you recorded the situation as you want to see it. Although I do enjoy post-processing my images from RAW into black and white, spending too much time in post-processing will hinder you. If you shoot a bad photo, no amount of Photoshop can make it any better.
Books by Henri Cartier-Bresson
If you want to learn more about Henri Cartier-Bresson and see more of his inspirational images, purchase one of his book “The Decisive Moment“, it used to be hard to come by, but now it has been republished for the masses.
Example of his use of geometrics and framing
His use of Negative space and Rule of Odds, do notice how simplicity is used to get the right composition
His use of integrated vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines, curves, shadows, triangles, circles, and squares to his lead the observers eye
The photo of his which I possibly love the most, where he demonstrates Rule of Odds