Henri Cartier-Bresson (H C-B)1908-2004, a French artist and photographer who, having first seriously taken up photography in the early 1930s, created a body of work that came to be universally recognized as the defining standard of what is now considered "Traditional Street Photography".
Cartier-Bresson's images are highly - and rightly - praised and imitated for several reasons: the technical quality of his images, his quick eye for effective composition and his ability to recognize, also quickly, the incipient "decisive moment". The "decisive moment" ...a concept often quoted, increasingly derided, but clearly evident in an amazing proportion of H C-B's images...is, I suggest, of two sorts. One is the kinetically predictable climax of an action observably in progress ( the bread-and-butter of sports photographers). The other is a seemingly unpredictable spontaneous action or expression perceived and acted upon by the photographer who is also an adept observer and interpreter of human nature. Either way, the "decisive moment, when recognized, has invariably been capitalized upon by Cartier-Bresson to impressive,and most positive effect.
I suggest that the ability to recognize an impending decisive moment is the fruit of long and natural interest in human nature and behavior. It can probably be cultivated to some degree, but I fear that to a greater extent it is congenital / inherent ...y'got it or y'don't. Sad to tell, some of us are simply far less gifted in these realms than are others. More's the pity that when I discuss personal attempts at street photography the three comments that must be trotted out more than any others are: "...this was just before she..." , "...this was just after he....", and "I just barely missed when..." To see a great many images not requiring such apologies, have a studied look at the traditional "street" of Cartier-Bresson and of UHH's own Graham Smith.
While H C-B was accomplished at candid exposures, he was never obsessive in that regard as a number of his images attest. Indeed, images # 14,25,29 provide testimony to the occasional value and impact of the subject's spontaneous and momentary awareness of the directed lens.
And that, actually, is IT ! H C-B was far more "into" spontaneity of event, action, and reaction than he was a slave to candid exposure, or, for that matter, any other aspect of photography...technical or artistic. And I do believe that study of the images of others of the "greats" of street photography reveals some degree of that same tendency in them, and by some of them more than others.
In the process of choosing the particular examples to be shown here from the seeming unlimited store of them available in print and on-line, I became impressed anew with the high proportion of his images that embody technical excellence, impact, composition and capture of the "decisive" moment, be it one logically anticipated/predictable (#s 1, 2, 5, 6), or one of momentary spontaneity intuitively perceived (#s 9, 14, 15, 22). In sum (and in my opinion) his paternity of traditional street is undeniable and unchallenged.
WOW! How he was able to capture at the precise moment..a true artist indeed. Thanks so much for sharing these images!
Thanks for putting together some of Cartie-Bresson's images. It is a true delight to study his images.
Thank you for all the work you put in to this.
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