Henri Cartier-Bresson

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    I find myself constantly inspired by the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. He did what I would like to do; he found people in everyday life, found the art in their mundane actions, and captured it. The sights that most people would walk right past captured his imagination, and he found a way to frame that action and make it art.
    Henri Cartier-Bresson began as a student of painting. He had no higher education, but studied the surrealists. During a year spent on the Ivory Coast, he began to develop an affinity for photography. Within two years, his photographs were exhibited in several galleries. He began to travel, taking pictures in Europe, Mexico, and the USA. He became involved in film, particularly documentaries. He fought in World War II. He became something of a “National Geographic”-type photographer, even documenting the death of Ghandi. He published his first book in 1952. He died on August 3rd, 2004.
    My favorite of his pictures is “FRANCE. Normandy. Calvados. Toques. 1969.” Since that is not a very descriptive title, the picture may be found here: http:/www.magnumphotos.comArchiveC.aspxVP3=ViewBox_VPage&VBID=2K1HZOWBVWF8N&IT=ZoomImage01_VForm&IID=2S5RYD104CXJ&PN=86&CT=Search. This photograph is the quintessential example of Cartier-Bresson’s creativity. He found something fascinating about the old man, even though the man is not particularly eye-catching and certainly not beautiful. He then framed the man with cabinets and other implements necessary to the restaurant trade. These items provide some context for the photo, giving us a hint as to where this old man is sitting. The mirror and cabinets are symmetrical, and the only interruption of this symmetry is the old man himself, which calls even more attention to him as the subject of the picture.
    As I browse through Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photos, it is clear that he has an eye for the humor in everyday life. He catches people in their unguarded state, often doing something ridiculous. This sense of humor speaks to me as a viewer of his art. In my opinion, too few people observe their world, and even fewer catch the irony and humor in it.
    Of course, humor isn’t the only thing Cartier-Bresson captures. In my favorite photo, he captures several emotions, and few people would find this photo funny. The old man is peaceful, certainly. Perhaps lonely, maybe reminiscing about the “old days.”
    In all of Cartier-Bresson’s photos, an undercurrent of honesty carries everything. Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photos give viewers something to think about, not just a pretty picture to absorb. His photos give a snapshot of a story, a story that is most likely lost forever. His work produces a sense of wonder from the mundane, bringing out the fascinating threads in everyday life.
    Cartier-Bresson continues to be an inspiration to me after his death. His body of work is enormous and admirable, and certainly an inspiration.

    Source: henricartierbresson.org

    Duncan Rawlinson

    Hi there,

    We’ll get back to you on this within 24-48 hours.

    Thanks for submitting your assignment!!

    Duncan Rawlinson

    Thank you for submitting another assignment! It’s always enjoyable to see people progress through the course.

    The assignment:

    What you need to do for this assignment is write a 500 word paper (approximately 1 page) on a photographer or artist that has had an impact on yourself as an artist. In this article you need to identify 2 important things.

    1. A particular piece of work they created which was of particular importance to you.
    2. What theme within their work is of greatest importance to you (i.e. war, love, family, color etc)

    We will review this assignment based on originality and perspective. There are no right or wrong answers. The aim of this assignment is to get you thinking about your own area of interest within the realm of photography.

    Your short essay certainly resonates with me and easily meets the requirements of the assignment. Your essay is both original and has a unique perspective.

    Henri Catier-Bresson is certainly a master. If I’m not mistaken he shot primarily with one 50 mm lens his entire life. Think about that, how easy is it to get caught up in fancy equipment, megapixels, prime lenses and all that when you could just be shooting. I’ve often thought of this work and thought to myself that I should always be shooting and instead of thinking about what equipment to use.

    IF you can use photography as your medium to take the everyday mundane and turn it into art than you’ve arrived. Henri Cartier-Bresson certainly attained these levels.

    Another reason he is so inspiring, other than the simplicity of his equipment selection, is that the subject matter of many of this photos is so common. Everyday streetlife is something we all see.

    As you also mention in your piece he studied painting. We could all learn from the masters of composition, color, and style in the painters of ages old. They understood those elements in a way many of us photographers can only dream. I saw this first hand recently when I toured the Louvre museum in paris. Always use other mediums to inspire you, to learn, and become a better photographer. Especially motion pictures!

    Humor in photography is very important. It is often not a simple task to illicit an emotional response from someone who looks at you photographs. Often humor is one of the easiest emotions to solicit. Always look for humor in your photography. We could all use more humor and lighter images.

    Thank you for an excellent essay and I look forward to your next assignment!

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