Read 21 May 2019
Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French Photographer and a founding member of Magnum Photos.
In this book he has written about his development as a photographer, experiences on some of his assignments and his about friends and acquaintances .
The first part of the book is dedicated to his development as a photographer. Henri Cartier-Bresson works through each stage of the process from, The Picture-story, The subject, Composition, Colour, Technique (developing the photographs), The Customers. He finished off this part with a couple of paragraphs on colour photography which was still quite limited at the time.
I found this first part of the book is extremely thought provoking for someone starting out in the field.
The chapter I found particularly interesting is ‘The Picture Story’. This is quite insightful and helpful as this is one aspect that I have been struggling with. I suspect I will be rereading this a few times.
Henri Cartier-Bresson explains that when he started out as an amateur photographer he didn’t think about telling a story with a sequence of photographs stating:
‘The idea of making a photographic reportage, that is to say, of telling a story in a sequence of pictures, never entered my head at the time.‘
Cartier-Bresson H 1996:22
He explains that it wasn’t until he started looking at illustrated magazines together along with the work of his colleagues, that he started to learn how to put a picture-story/reportage together. Henri Cartier-Bresson goes through the elements that he feels brings a photographic series together. He explains that there are two kinds of selections to be made during this process. The first being the selection you make through the viewfinder when taking the photographs, and the second is to separate the weakest photographs once the film has been developed.
‘… if it is possible to make pictures of the “core” as well as the struck-off sparks of the subject, this is a picture-story. The page serves to reunite the complementary elements which are dispersed throughout several photographs’
Cartier-Bresson H 1996:23
One thing that Henri Cartier-Bresson warns against when taking photographs it not to let your eye or mind wonder. You must stay concentrated on the scene so that you capture the elements that portray the story and not to try and manipulate what is in front of you.
‘We must not manipulate reality while we are shooting, nor manipulate the results in the darkroom.’
Cartier-Bresson H 1996:27
The second section of the book made for fascinating reading about his experience photographing in Cuba and Moscow. Henri-Cartier-Bresson is very descriptive in his writing about the people he met, creating a good image in ones minds eye.
The third section of the book is about Henri Cartier-Bressons friends and acquaintances, which is quite interesting learning how they all supported one another.
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