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Henri Cartier-Bresson: Photographer (Book Review)

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Photographer

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) was a legendary photographer best known for being a father of photojournalism and street photography and for the promotion of a paradigm he called the decisive moment. Along with Brassai, Cartier-Bresson is probably the most influential European photographer of the Twentieth Century, a trained painter, master of photographic composition and a founding member of Magnum.

Yet, the previous brief description is a profound understatement of Henri Cartier-Bresson and the complexity and sheer life experience of the man behind the camera. This review can barely touch on Cartier-Bresson’s life story. To that end, the Internet provides ample anecdotes and history.

My copy of Henri Cartier-Bresson: Photographer is in constant use – a solid 338 pages measuring 30.5 x 29 x 3.3 centimetres and weighs 2.7 kilograms. It is a beautifully made book of 155 black and white photographs and worth absolutely every penny. The photographs within were selected by Cartier-Bresson and he gives insight into many of them during interviews for the documentary Henri Cartier-Bresson: l’amour tout court. This documentary is available on YouTube in five parts – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

The book spans work from the whole of Cartier-Bresson’s career and includes photojournalism as well as many iconic photographs made between the employed moments in his life. The prostitutes, the boy on the country road who walked on his hands, the social, tranquil and profound. The documentary mentioned above is great to watch for those explanations behind the photographs, too. It brings many of them to life like personal memoirs – his mother never liked him hanging out with the prostitutes; he took two photographs of the stairs but only showed the one with the child and not the one of the priest; he set up the scene for his most famous photograph – Plate 14: Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, 1932 – and fired the camera through the hole embracing luck as much as opportunity and preparation. That photograph was also one of his very few crops. It’s arguably said to be the best photograph taken in the Twentieth Century.

In my world Henri Cartier-Bresson: Photographer is everything that I’m looking for in a photography book. It has quality, durability and ongoing fascination.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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