Author(s): Clement Cheroux
Staff notes: One of the photographers William Eggleston learnt from (by looking at prints and books) was Henri Cartier-Bresson. In fact, Cartier-Bresson (1908 – 2004) has connections to Saul Leiter too, as he also came to photography though painting, though his leanings were more towards Surrealism than Impressionism. During the war, Cartier-Bresson was taken prisoner, but managed to escape in 1943 and photographed the Liberation of Paris in 1945. Cartier-Bresson is best remembered as the inventor of street photography and photojournalism. This sizeable monograph by historian Clément Chéroux was published to commemorate France’s major retrospective exhibition of Cartier-Bresson’s work after his death in 2004. It brings together decades of work and words by the photographer and instils in the reader a belief that photography is a way of life, a means of aligning ‘the head, the eye, and the heart.’
This lavishly illustrated monograph published to accompany Frances first major retrospective since the photographers death in 2004 traces Cartier-Bresson's development as a photographer, activist, journalist and artist. In addition to some of Cartier-Bresson's best-known photographs, included here are many seldom seen or unpublished images and some rarities in colour as well as black-and-white. From his earliest photographs in Paris in the 1920s and Africa in the 1930s, Cartier-Bresson's capacity to conjure coherence and harmony out of a chaotic world appears effortless and innate a deep-centred attitude rather than a merely learned technique. His observations of the effects of poverty and revolution around the world led directly to his pioneering photojournalism and to his co-founding of Magnum Photos. He became renowned for his penetrating portraits of the most prominent figures of his time, becoming, in the words of his biographer Pierre Assouline, the eye of the century.