The Mind’s Eye – writings on Photography and Photographers, by Henri Cartier-Bresson, is a lovely book I received for Christmas from a dear friend. I was reminded how H C B inspired my photographic work with its poetry and Golden Mean, and still inspires other creative areas, including my writing.
For H C B photography led on to include painting & drawing. For me photography led on to include writing, in the way H C B said: ‘The writer has time to reflect. He can accept and reject, accept again; and before committing his thoughts to paper he is able to tie the several relevant elements together. There is also a period when his brain ‘forgets,’ and his subconscious works on classifying his thoughts. But for the photographer, what has gone is gone forever.’
The impact of H C B’s images is hard to define. They exemplify what many photographers aspire to but can’t name. Not only do most of his shots surprise by capturing the essence of a fugitive moment, a magical decisive one, they are framed in a way that touches all the elements of motion in a dynamic balance.
‘My passion has never been for photography ‘in itself,’ but for the possibility – through forgetting yourself – of recording in a fraction of a second the emotion of the subject, and the beauty of the form; that is, a geometry awakened by what’s offered.’
‘I hope I’ll never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinder; the Golden Rule will never be found etched on our ground glass.’
I let Henry Cartier-Bresson talk for himself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW7I3GBdsBw
H C B speaks in relation to portrait-photography of looking for the silence in the person. I guess he was looking for the silence behind everything. This silence was most likely what he was attentive to. I conjure that this silence lies between each breath, from which all phenomena emerge from second to second – from that timeless soul-garden within us – which we can tune into.
What I am saying is – H C B could not have captured these decisive moments without having experienced the silence within him. From this timeless state we glimpse the joie de vivre with its awesome sense of wonder generated and re-generated from eternity that makes life worthwhile and meaningful. It’s probably this glimpse, the ethic of this silent sphere that drives all anarchist artists.
Why Black and White and not Colour?
In 1952 colour film emulsion was not well developed. H C B said then: ‘I am half afraid that this complex new element may tend to prejudice the achievement of the life and movement which is often caught by black and white.’
He was concerned that composition would suffer and be overpowered by colour. I remember when colour TV was first introduced, I intensely disliked the busy business cramped into a small frame. Colour can however be used as a language, and I am certain H C B would have cottoned on to this had he lived on.
Here a sample of my own to illustrate colour’s use. http://500px.com/photo/6913693?from=set/266780
In 1974, together with other freelance photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson founded Magnum Photos. See also: http://www.henricartierbresson.org/pres/home_en.htm
H C B’s second wife, the Belgian-born Martine Franck, was an inspired photographer in her own right: http://www.theworld.org/2012/08/remembering-celebrated-photographer-martine-franck/
I am wishing all my readers and visitors a wonderful creative New Year ….
12 responses to “… the inner silence of Henri Cartier-Bresson …”
Another wonderful post, Ashen. Love the b/w photography.
While I’m here, I MUST just take the opportunity to tell you how much I love your blog. I really do consider it to be a rare oasis in a sea of mediocrity. A haven to think and simply to be. Thank you sweetie!
Oh…and here’s wishing you a truly wonderful New Year! May 2013 bring you everything you could wish for, health, happiness and personal fulfilment! 😀 xx
Thank you, generous Sophie – all the same to you.
A highly interesting article. I too prefer black and white photos, they have a clarity that is sometimes lacking in colour, which can overwhelm the senses.
Thanks for stopping by, Kate.
Black&white in relation to photography is actually a bit of a misnomer. At its best, b&w photography plays with a rich palette of grey tones between deep black and highlights. I studied and trained in photography before the digital process arrived. It’s a great pleasure to have an accurately exposed negative and watch the positive print slowly develop towards perfect saturation.
Yet another fascinating post and wonderful images. Thanks
I’m pleased you appreciate the images, Diane.
What a fascinating piece! Sadly, I know nothing about photography so this was a real eye opener for me. Thank you!
And a very, very happy New Year to you!
Ah, Katia, but you do capture fugitive moments 🙂
A very, very happy New Year to you.
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