Blog note: I wouldn’t know to how to present the scope of Henri Cartier Bresson’s  over 30- year career in one post.  I can’t even begin to try, so I’m going to surprise myself with new photographs from time to time.

The title of this post, Le moment decisif,  is a Bressonism (I just made that up) meaning the “decisive moment at which the elements in motion come together and are in complete balance, thus reflecting the every day and revealing something of the nature of life.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alicante, Spain (1933)

A decisive moment came for Cartier-Bresson in a photograph entitled Three Boys at Lake Tanganyika. It was taken by photojournalist Martin Munkacsi and showed  (in near-silhouette) three naked young African boys running into the surf of Lake Tanganyika. This alegría de la vida inspired him to stop painting (he was a Surrealist) and take up photography seriously.

“I felt a sense of rhythm and a sense of life,” he recalls (to Vanity Fair), “a sense of liberty. You could catch that with a camera.”

Henri Cartier Bresson, SPAIN. Valencia. 1933. Inside the sliding doors of the bullfight arena. Copyright — Magnum Photos

By 1932, at age 24, Cartier-Bresson had begun to devise a whole new manner of shooting pictures. His images of common men and women in France, Spain, Italy, and Mexico began appearing in publications and on gallery walls.

Cartier-Bresson’s Decisive Moment Vanity Fair 2003   reprinted 2004  The Digital Journalist

UPDATE: VF caption for Alicante photograph —

Says Cartier-Bresson of this cryptic trio he caught in Alicante, Spain, “The brothel was opposite the hotel where I was staying. It was the woman pimp- the madam. The gay man. And the maid.”


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