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Henri Cartier-Bresson: Masters of Photography Series Hardcover – June 15, 2005
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"The photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson has resulted in a body of work unique in the history of this craft, not alone in kind but in quality. Apart from the fact that he is responsible for more individual memorable images than any other photographer in his epoch, his attitude toward his art . . . is based on a philosophy at once traditional, logical, and exemplary."--Lincoln Kirstein
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Cartier-Bresson lived almost a century, spanning virtually all of the 20th. A full and vital life. He is credited with "inventing" photojournalism. Capturing those spontaneous street scenes. During the Second World War he was captured by the Germans, in 1940, at St. Die, in the Vosges Mountains. He spent almost three years in forced labor, and many assumed he was dead. He emerged stronger, and with a sense of purpose; he founded the Magnum Photo Agency after the war. He also seems to have found his true love late in life, the essential "zest" in all things.
A fellow Amazon reviewer recommended the first volume in this Aperture Series, on Paul Strand, which I have now reviewed. When I realized that Cartier-Bresson was the second volume in this series, it was another essential purchase. Both volumes are superlative productions by the premier publisher of books on photography. There is very little narrative. The pictures speak for themselves, sometimes ambiguously, as is the master' style. The Aperture series provides a representative sample of the photographer's work. In this volume there are approximately 40 black and white photographs.
Some of his most famous photographs are missing, for example the ones of the authors Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Instead, I was surprised and delighted to see one of William Faulkner. There are also ones of the artists Henri Matisse and Paul Bonnard. By far though, most are the anonymous people from his street scenes. And these are located across Europe, as well as in China, India, Mexico and Africa. There is a haunting picture that captures the intense devotion of a young man as he kisses the hand of a cardinal in Montmartre, 1938 as well as a French working class picnic along the Marne River in the same year.
The French have an expression (don't they always!) that conveys two bodies deeply intertwined: "collé serré." That also seemed to be a passion of Cartier-Bresson, whose most famous one in that regard is of the American sailor kissing the woman in Time Square, in NYC, at the immediate end of World War II. (there are some stories that have indicated some "staging" went into that photograph.) In this volume, on page 33, there is a photograph that I had never seen before, that seems to brilliantly capture the concept of "collé serré. Two bodies truly intertwined, so that it is difficult to tell where one starts and the other lets off. It was taken in Mexico, in 1934. Who knows what, if any, staging went on with that one. I do know it is much more "inspirational" than a kissed cardinal's hand.
Another wonderful production from Aperture. 5-stars, plus.
The book consists of--as the title plainly states--interviews and conversations. It is not a book of Cartier-Bresson's photographs. Do not be misled by the reviews that discuss photos supposedly reproduced in this book. There are NO photographs here. This is NOT a Cartier-Bresson monograph.
What is here is excellent food for thought for photographers and artists who followed Cartier-Bresson's career and respected his work. He gives insight into his photography and art in general. Photographers who appreciate reportage and documentary work will especially be rewarded by this small book.
It's too bad that Amazon has put reviews for other books by and about Cartier-Bresson into a blender with this volume and fouled the review section. The book deserves better.