Art & Aesthetics Art Blog
It is almost as if Henri Cartier-Bresson could make himself invisible, judging by the way the people in his photographs seem unaffected by - if even aware of - the great French photographer's presence. His images are completely candid; no posers allowed. His photos are value-added portraits of reality. He could extract drama out of the commonplace, and always found the balance point between narration and abstraction. Cartier-Bresson, whose life touched every decade in the 20th century and beyond, was friends with another Henri - the artist Matisse. Maybe that's who influenced the strangely decorative aspect to Cartier-Bresson's photographs.
Henri Cartier-Bresson's images are gray-scale compositions with somewhat musical qualities. Harmony, rhythm, and proportion set the tone while the visual cues of highlight, shadow, and reflection fill in the details. His compositions are spontaneous; no darkroom trickery involved. Every photo has a quality that draws the viewer into a narrative of social realism beneath the surface. The interacting forms resonate with the life events they portray. He had a knack for compressing time: for making the exposure just before the very essence of the scenario imploded. Hence, "the defining moment" became his legacy.
The fleeting quality in a picture of a man leaping over his own reflection in a puddle of water is evidence of Cartier-Bresson's intuition and anticipation. He was always well-positioned and ever-ready to whip out his camera (a 35mm format Leica with a 50mm lens, standard issue) from under his coat, fire and hit the bulls-eye with uncanny accuracy. Each of his photographs is a slice of life - a sideways glance that unhinges time from space. They are transient and subliminal peeks at naked truths, curious and captivating. The scowl of an old man is caught between what troubles him, and what he is going to do about it. The gleeful smile of a child connects the promise of youth with the world at large. Static becomes dynamic: an amorous gaze in the blink of the eye.