It’s when you look at the photography of someone like Henri Cartier-Bresson that you realise your own efforts are those of a complete amateur. Cartier-Bresson was the master of street photography, his work had nothing to do with quality of equipment or editing techniques, it was all about capturing the ‘decisive moment’. Whilst that moment was sometimes spontaneous, it was often acquired through persistence and patience, waiting for the right person to enter the frame to complete the image.
It is however far from that simple. In many of Cartier-Bresson’s images it took an appreciation of the culture in which he was shooting – sometimes residing in countries for long periods of time to become familiar with his subjects. His photographs are like pieces of poetry; perfectly framed slices of human life, oozing with unfiltered emotion. As an artist his use of framing and composition was incredible, and his obsessive fascination with the world around him shines through his work.
As someone who often carries a camera around, hoping to capture life at its most magnificent, Cartier-Bresson’s work is a huge inspiration. John Morris, his friend and executive editor of Magnum, the photo agency Cartier-Bresson helped found in 1947 summed up his skill perfectly, saying: “It comes from the heart. He has great human perception. He understands children, he understands old ladies, and he knows what moments are significant in terms of the human being.”
Personally, I love Cartier-Bresson’s own quote: Photography is nothing – it’s life that interests me.”
My top five photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson:
1. Rue Mouffetard, France – 1954
2. A refugee recognises here Gestapo informant in a displaced person’s camp, Dessau, Germany – 1945
3. Naples, Italy – 1960
4. Andalucia, Spain – 1933
5. Madrid, Spain – 1933