Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, the Image and the World, A Retrospective

By Smith, C. Zoe | Journalism History, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, the Image and the World, A Retrospective


Smith, C. Zoe, Journalism History


Arbaizar, Philippe, Jean Clair, Claude Cookman, Robert Delpire, Peter Galassi, Jean-Noel Jeanneney, Jean Leymarie, and Serge Toubiana. Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, the Image and the World, A Retrospective. London: Thames & Hudson, 2003. 431 pp. $75.

More than thirty years ago Henri Cartier-Bresson put down his camera to return to his sketchbook, yet photography still claims him as one of the best and brightest. Oddly enough, he does not like to talk about his photography and underplays the importance his photographic reportage has had on the development of photojournalism.

Nevertheless, he spent the first few years of the new millennium working with colleagues, his daughter, Melanie, and his wife, photographer Martine Franck, going through his incredible archives. The results of their collective efforts were threefold: a retrospective exhibition that opened in Paris, a new foundation bearing his name, and this massive book, all in honor of his ninety-fifth birthday. The exhibit reportedly will be seen in the United States this year and next.

Since the 1957 publication of Henri-Cartier Bresson: The Decisive Moment; Photographs 1930-1957, he has been known for his extraordinary images of ordinary things. However, not everything he shot was ordinary. In 1947, he was in India for the death of Gandhi, in Indonesia for its independence, and in China for the last six months of the Kuomintang and the first six months of the People's Republic. Life sent him to the USSR in the mid-1950s to do a cover story on post-war Moscow. During his long career, which began in the early 1930s, he traveled around the world with his Leica, capturing landscapes as well as historic events.

Carrier-Bresson's well-known portraits of famous artists and writers, such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Alfred Stieglitz, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Ezra Pound, and Jean-Paul Sartre, are included in this comprehensive volume. Interestingly, also included in the final pages are family snapshots and portraits of the notoriously camera-shy Cartier-Bresson, who was born in August 1908; most of these personal images are not likely to have been seen in public before now. …

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