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Henri Cartier-Bresson: À Propos de Paris Paperback – May 1, 1998
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"Photography is nothing, it's life that interests me." With his ever-present Leica camera, Henri Cartier-Bresson captured the raw and the sweet, the comic and the profound moments of lives that were lost in the grind or relegated to someone else's memory--the coincidental moment at which a reflection in a puddle of water mimics a poster on a nearby wall or when lovers kiss, oblivious to the not-so-pristine world around them. It is the familiar beauty and cruelty of the day-to-day that is so engaging in his photographs: two cosmopolitan woman chat nonchalantly while surrounded by empty lettuce crates; mourners at a funeral stare directly into the camera; postwar Paris awakens in the fog. Cartier-Bresson was the master of the "decisive moment," that fleeting instant for which a picture really is worth a thousand words, which is the essence of photojournalism. In no place is this more exemplified than in his images of Paris.
Cartier-Bresson personally selected the more than 130 black-and-white photographs of Paris for this publication. With photographs taken over a period of 50 years, the work is beautifully and generously printed in duotone. The accompanying essays, both short and unobtrusive, are also familiar and personal. One essayist captures the essence of Cartier-Bresson's camera work: "When life calls, he is always there, to assist, or to admire; to rebel, or to say no to exploiters and imposters, and to all those who demean its value." --Manine Golden
About the Author
Henri Cartier-Bresson is one of this century's leading photographers and his career has profoundly influenced the field. His earliest images are of Europe in the 1930s and 40s; he later traveled throughout the world -- to the United States, India, Japan, China, Mexico, the Soviet Union -- to frame the world with his camera.
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Cartier Bresson personally selected these 130 photographs for publication. and they have been well-produced in black-white duotone. I have my favorites, but enjoy looking and relooking at them all--often having a new appreciation for a picture I had previously just glanced at. We now have so many options with cameras, but HCB worked with a Leica with a "normal field of view" through a 50mm lens (equivalent to many digital camera's 35mm lens today). This is an essential collection for any photographer.
Time and again I thumb its pages and find something in the photographs that I never before noticed.
This isn't some book full of "pretty" pictures in the conventional sense. One has to look at each picture to understand what inspired HCB to capture it.
I have a few favorites photos from this book, but those that stand out in my mind are of the picnic by the Marne and of the little boy carrying two large bottles of wine.
The Marne photo is so well layed out that, if one didn't know better, it would seem staged. That simply wasn't Cartier-Bresson's way. Although their faces are not seen, I "know" what each of the people look like.
The opposite is true of the little boy. His face is there for all to see and interpret. What is he thinking? Is he happy? Is he proud to be showing off for the little girls in the background?
Many of HCB's photos force us to read his mind and the minds of his subjects. These seemingly impromptu snapshots not only depict what HCB saw, but also depict it geometrically.
To someone like myself who has dabbled in "street photography", HCB epitomizes the genre.