Henri Cartier-Bresson's Last Decisive Moment

By Chalifour, Bruno | Afterimage, September-October 2004 | Go to article overview

Henri Cartier-Bresson's Last Decisive Moment


Chalifour, Bruno, Afterimage


Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004)

Jean-Philippe Charbonnier (1922-2004)

Pierre Gassmann (1914-2004)

Carl Mydans (1907-2004)

Van Deren Coke (1921-2004)

A lot has been written, and more will be, about the life in photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson. If Europe contributed to the medium in the twentieth century. Cartier-Bresson, a.k.a. HCB. probably stood among the best. If not the spear-head of its protagonists. For decades, this now world-famous photographer tried to seize the essence of his time, and crystallize it in the fraction of a second within the frame of his viewfinder. Once he had picked it up, back in the early 1930s, his Leica, a brand that he made famous around the world, became the true "extension of his eye."

It all started in 1932 when Leitz Cameras (Lei-Ca) released the second model of a long series of small, "miniature" then, cameras using 35 mm movie film That model was equipped with its ideal complement, a range-finder allowing extremely precise focusing. That same year Cartier-Bresson had to leave Africa, where he had been working as a safari guide, because of a life-threatening case of black fever. They met in Marseille, and never parted. The tool gave the photographer the versatility, discretion, speed, and control that matched his character. Cartier-Bresson gave it his eye and mind trained by the cubist painter Andre Lhote, and his experience as a hunter in Africa. For him, from a simple way of seeing, photography became a way of thinking, feeling (with the appropriate distance), and a way of life, an evolution that would be confirmed by, and would extend into his experience of Buddhism.

For years, until he "retired" in the mid-1970s, and dedicated his time to drawing. Magnum allowed him to roam the world while Pierre Gassman, in Paris, would develop his negatives and print them at "Picto." (Pictorial Service Lab). 2004 has been a rather deadly year for photographers. Van Deren Coke. Carl Mydans recently, and, within weeks, on the other side of the ocean three men, two of whom were photographers. Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) and Jean-Philippe Charbonnier (-2004), and one darkroom sorcerer. Pierre Gassman. In Henri, a booklet edited by Brigitte Ollier and published by Filigranes in 2003. Charbonnier remembered his first meeting with Cartier-Bresson (pp. 16-17).

"The Monument [...] I think I met him by chance at Pierre Gassman's Picto, rue de la Comete, or maybe rue Delambre [...] We were doing the same job, we had the same lab to get our rolls processed, but we did not have the same stripes on our sleeves. [...] I can see him going for the first time over the contact sheets of a series he had just shot. Here comes Pierre who stops and stands behind him. "Get the hell out of here!" said Henri. There was an attitude that matched the character, he wanted to be the first one to look at his contact sheets. Every photographer behaves this way, one does not just get master pieces out of 36 exposures, and one does not have to advertise one's hesitations and errors. Later we exchanged two photographs.

He is a formidable "statue." Henri, even if I regret that he should be so stiff. For me he is THE living National Treasure at its best, [...] I even allow myself to call him THE INSTITUTION." Cartier-Bresson generated the type of admiration he both enjoyed and ran away from. In Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Mind's Eye (Aperture, 1999, p. 86) he mentions, while recalling the documentary video that Sarah Moon made about him: "My notoriety is a heavy load: I refuse to be a standard bearer: I have spent my whole life trying to be inconspicuous in order to observe better."

Beyond his photographic oeuvre, and as a disclaimer to his alleged desire to remain unknown, if Cartier-Bresson must be remembered, it is as a co-founder in 1947 of the photographers' co-operative. Magnum, and as the author of The Decisive Moment (Images a la sauvette, or "images on the run" in its French version) in 1952. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Henri Cartier-Bresson's Last Decisive Moment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.