Articles Tagged with: Henri Cartier-Bresson
Henri Cartier-Bresson | Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound, Venice 1971 © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

VENICE—Ezra Pound, 1971 Henri Cartier-Bresson © Magnum Photos

Martine Franck, Cartier-Bresson’s widow, accompanied her husband to just one — probably atypical — portrait session, that of the poet Ezra Pound in Venice in 1971, a year before his death at 87.

There was a tremendous, heavy silence,’ recalled Ms. Franck, herself a photographer. ‘Pound didn’t say a word. He just seemed to condemn the world with his eyes. We were there for about 20 minutes. I stayed to one side. I huddled in a corner. Henri took seven pictures.’

– From This Decisive Moment On by Alan Riding in The New York Times, January 26, 2006


Henri Cartier-Bresson | Random Images from the Magnum Archives

Magnum Photos has been releasing some images online from their singular historic archives which is an incredible opportunity to study and learn from the masters in their catalog. These images by Henri Cartier-Bresson, some of which have not been widely published, provide a rich insight into his style and process.

BERLIN—Taxi drivers, 1931, Henri Cartier-Bresson © Magnum Photos

BERLIN—Taxi drivers, 1931, Henri Cartier-Bresson © Magnum Photos

I am in awe of him, I am in absolute awe of him. Everyone is a Cartier-Bresson baby…I worship him.

-Richard Avedon.

PARIS—Bofinger restaurant, 1969. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

PARIS—Bofinger restaurant, 1969. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

Nothing worth knowing can be taught.

-Henri Cartier-Bresson

ACAPULCO, Mexico—A market, 1963. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

ACAPULCO, Mexico—A market, 1963. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

You mustn’t want, you must be receptive. Don’t think even. The brain’s a bit dangerous.

-Henri Cartier-Bresson

PARIS—Café Flore, 1959. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

PARIS—Café Flore, 1959. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

I don’t consider myself a photographer, I am using a camera, but there are millions of photographers….I’m just a human being. Anyone that is sensitive is an artist.

-Henri Cartier-Bresson

NEW YORK CITY—A football game at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, 1947. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

NEW YORK CITY—A football game at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, 1947. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

Photography is nothing–it’s life that interests me.

– Henri Cartier-Bresson

NEW YORK CITY—Downtown, 1947. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

NEW YORK CITY—Downtown, 1947. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

They . . . asked me:

‘How do you make your pictures?’ I was puzzled . . .

I said, ‘I don’t know, it’s not important.’

-Henri Cartier-Bresson

VILLAGE OF BRANGUES, France—French writer and diplomat Paul Claudel, 1945. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

VILLAGE OF BRANGUES, France—French writer and diplomat Paul Claudel, 1945. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

In a portrait, I’m looking for the silence in somebody.

-Henri Cartier-Bresson

AHMEDABAD, GUJARAT, India—The Rangwala retail and wholesale cloth market, 1966. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

AHMEDABAD, GUJARAT, India—The Rangwala retail and wholesale cloth market, 1966. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

Actually, I’m not all that interested in the subject of photography. Once the picture is in the box, I’m not all that interested in what happens next. Hunters, after all, aren’t cooks.

-Henri Cartier-Bresson

NAPLES, Italy—1960. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

NAPLES, Italy—1960. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

And no photographs taken with the aid of flash light, either, if only out of respect for the actual light – even when there isn’t any of it.

-Henri Cartier-Bresson – “The Decisive Moment”

ELEUSIS, Greece—1953. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

ELEUSIS, Greece—1953. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

There is no closed figure in nature. Every shape participates with another. No one thing is independent of another, and one thing rhymes with another, and light gives them shape.

-Henri Cartier-Bresson


Looking In: Robert Frank’s “The Americans”

September 22, 2009 through January 3, 2010, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will be hosting the exhibit, Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans. Organized by the National Gallery of Art, the exhibit has traveled from DC to San Francisco, ending in New York. The new exhibit and book are a celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Americans, one of the most influential single series of photographs ever published. The exhibit will feature all 83 photos from the book that were made on his cross-country road trip from 1955-56.

On Friday, October 9th, Robert Frank will be appearing in conversation with the curators and organizers of this presentation at the Met. Do not miss this, as Frank does not make many public appearances these days. Purchase tickets here. I already have mine and am sure it will sell out soon.

Whether you attend or not, purchase the book right now. The expanded hardcover features 83 pages of contact sheets which are a treasure unto themselves (the softcover is an abridged version and does not offer all of the contact sheets.) I have had the book for two weeks and have barely made a dent in it because of the richness offered and the lessons to be learned. The Americans and Robert Frank’s body of work were already inestimable contributions and as familiar as I am with those 83 images, I am stunned by how little I understood the skill and remarkable taste Frank had in his choices, the sequencing of the images, cropping and yes, even grant writing (the original letters are included.)

It is truly an eye-opening experience into how complete his talents are and how the mix of of them achieved a perfect balance with The Americans.

The one thing I will share is the tiniest snippet of a lesson I am absorbing. The shot of the elevator girl in Miami Beach has always been a favorite of mine. Below is an excerpt from the contact sheet with that image on it. You can see Frank working the situation and the idea over 14 frames.

Cartier-Bresson once said of contact sheets:

My contact sheets may be compared to the way you drive a nail in a plank. First you give several light taps to build up a rhythm and align the nail with the wood. Then, much more quickly, and with as few strokes as possible, you hit the nail forcefully on the head and drive it in.

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Elevator, Miami Beach, 1955, Robert Frank

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Excerpt from contact sheet from the book: Looking In: Robert Frank’s “The Americans”


André Kertész | His Inspiring and Lasting Influence

André Kértész remains my largest influence when I am behind the camera. It may have been chance that a professor lent me one of his books when I was eighteen but that chance gift was my introduction into the world of photography. Kértész was the first master whose images I studied and I pored over that book for hours. I could have easily been handed a monograph by Arbus or Avedon or Adams. Perhaps my professor knew what she was doing.

I have been following that initial insight and inspiration ever since. Many times I find myself unintentionally copying Kértész on the street.

There is a gentle humanistic quietness, an easy poetry to his images and a seeming raw, amateurish quality that makes his images readily accessible. The incredible perfection of Cartier-Bresson or Salgado can sometimes create a personal distance between the image and the viewer because the flawless, stunning compositions and technique can render an image almost to the level of a graphic, it being so pure of form and idea. The converse is Kértész’s work with its easy homeyness that is flawed and familiar, inviting and intimate, and in the end, deeply personal. The series of images he made of the glass sculpture that reminded him of his departed wife is a subject of heartbreaking vulnerability, a view that few of the masters have ever let us see.

He is considered the grandfather of street photography. The Getty Museum’s Photography Curator, Weston Naef described Kértész as

a little like Christopher Columbus, who discovered a new world that, in the end, was named for someone else.

Cartier-Bresson also said once said of himself, Robert Capa, and Brassaï, that

Whatever we have done, Kertész did first.

He is also credited by Brassaï as being his mentor and the one who encouraged him to document the nights of Paris.

Except for his celebrated period in Paris in the 20’s and 30’s, he has always been tragically under appreciated and oddly looked over especially after his relocation to the United States. Because of this, he is something of a photographer’s photographer, cherished by those who shoot and those who study those who have shot.

I still find myself looking at a proof sheet, wondering about the familiarity of an image I’ve created until I realize that it is my version of a Kértész.

I am an amateur, and I intend to remain an amateur for the rest of my life. The photograph gets its beauty from the very truth with which it is stamped. This is why I guard myself against any kind of professional trickery or virtuosity.

I attribute to photography the task of recording the real nature of things, their interior life. The photographer’s art is a continuous discovery which requires patience and time. A photograph draws its beauty from the truth with which it is marked.

André Kértész, 1930.

We all owe him a great deal.

Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Chez Mondrian

André Kértész, Chez Mondrian, 1926

The Fork

André Kértész, The Fork, 1928

Rainy Day Tokyo

André Kértész, Rainy Day Tokyo, 1968

Café du Dome, 1928

André Kértész, Café du Dome, 1928

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André Kértész, Martinique, 1972

Andre Kertesz Meudon, Paris 1928

André Kértész, Meudon, 1928

Ballet, 1938

André Kértész, Ballet, 1938


Helen Levitt, 1913 – 2009

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this little alcove in the Metropolitan Museum of Art that was dedicated to the photographs of Helen Levitt, a small tribute to her work in light of her death in March 2009. I had been familiar with her work in passing but I had never seen any of her photos in person. These small dark prints had such delight and spoke so honestly of the street and in the capacity for the squalor of pre-war New York to be playful and whimsical.

Helen shot on the streets of New York most of her life (excepting a series in Mexico City) and documented the neighborhoods and sidewalk dwellers with an eye towards the lighthearted frolic of daily life that contrasted with the harsh urban streets, giving her images a surrealist quality. She had abandoned her large format camera after seeing an exhibit by Cartier-Bresson and began to use the 35mm Leica, occasionally with a prism to disguise the fact that she was photographing a subject.

She was a film editor and director and worked for Buñuel, works which I have not yet seen. In later years she used color, but for my own tastes, her images from the thirties and forties remain evocative and stirring.

Powerhouse Books has published several books of hers, some of which I will be buying shortly.

From the New York Times obituary.

Changes in neighborhood life also affected her work. “I go where there’s a lot of activity,” she said. “Children used to be outside. Now the streets are empty. People are indoors looking at television or something.”

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Helen Levitt, Los Angeles Times, 1963

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Helen Levitt, New York City, c 1939

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Helen Levitt, New York City, c 1940

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Helen Levitt, New York City, 1942

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Helen Levitt, New York City, 1940

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Helen Levitt, New York City, 1939

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Helen Levitt, New York City, c 1940

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1945

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1942

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Helen Levitt, Street Drawing, New York, 1940

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1942

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Helen Levitt, New York City, c 1940

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1942

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1945

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1942

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1940


Henri Cartier-Bresson | Martine’s Legs, 1968

Henri Cartier-Bresson rarely shot women in an intimate, sensual manner. His famous image of Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits is more of a comment on celebrity than anything remotely erotic.

The photo of his wife Martine Franck, however, is a delicate image, charged with the latent promise of those intertwined legs.

martine's legs

martine's legs, henri cartier-bresson