Biography of Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004)

French photographer born in Chanteloup, Seine-et-Marne, on August 22, 1908 and died in Paris on August 2, 2004.

Cartier-Bresson's photography.

If one of the great opportunities provided photography since its inception was the "take the time", no one like Cartier-Bresson to prove it. Their images set the instant of a "decisive" because, ultimately, that is what counts for him, the "decisive moment", that which carries in itself the essence of a situation: ".. .to end, the photo itself I do not care the least." All I want is to retain the reality a split second... "For my has only one thing: the instant and eternity, eternity which, like the line of the horizon, always recedes". It remains curious that a statement like this out of the lips of one of the most amazing photographers that has given the history of photography, a living legend capable of recording moments with great precision.

He started in photography to 1931, after studying at Cambridge, painting and philosophy. Working as a freelance photographer, a year later he/she organized his first solo exhibition. In 1935, he/she got in touch with the world of film thanks to Paul Strand and was prestigious directors such as Jacques Becker and Jean RenoirFrench operator. Prisoner of the Germans in 1940, participated in the clandestine movement of support to prisoners and escaped prisoners of the nazi concentration camps and continued with his work as a freelance photographer after the war. In 1947 he/she founded the Magnum Agency - together with Robert Capa and David Seymour- leaving it in 1969.

With the beginning of the 1970s, Cartier-Bresson definitely leaves the picture to devote himself fully to his two passions: drawing and painting. Bresson disappear public option took it from the beginning, has nothing to do with the fact of having become more famous and respected living photographer. When he/she wanted to be a photographer he/she chose a very radical political stance, which had to do with spontaneity and a quick way of capturing reality. Despite this sense of abandonment, Bresson has left a fascinating photographic work, images that seem to be taken with the ease of one who possesses enough talent to understand things quickly and, at the time, an extraordinary capacity of reaction to these details, perhaps superficial, but that are putting real life because that is, of reality.

For this reason, it can be said that his photographs are images highlights great realism, witness to situations lived and experienced. His way of photographing only can be understood if one is aware of that photography "says" the truth, only so - with the truth as banner-, Bresson captures the reality that surrounds him to surprise her on their "crucial" moments thanks to this inexplicable instinct that made him to always be in place at the right time. Once there, entrenched behind his camera, had only to wait for the situation to reach its climax to activate your trigger: behind the curtain of the diaphragm, a fraction of reality will impress forever celluloid by a mocking grin at the time.

For Bresson photography was not a trade or entertainment, but a vocation. It faced the reality in all its fullness without trying to circumvent it; portrayed it surreptitiously, as a sly - a the sauvette-. It is not the instant of a Lartigue, relaxed and cheerful, is instantly who assimilates all the nuances of the reality that, to be registered, to acquire an impressive testimonial force as by chance. In this sense, arguably it is not an Aesthete who come in search of beautiful image itself. Beauty comes from the revelation of an indefinable mystery where the tragic and the comic are constantly confused.

After abandoning photography, Cartier-Bresson is dedicated mainly to drawing, re-visit, as he/she himself points out, his true vocation, and closing the "parentheses" photography: "is finished. Photography has met an adventurous facet that is in my. I felt me like a thief everywhere I went. In the background, the photographer is located between the thief and the funambulist... "." A hiatus that lasted almost forty years and which, fortunately, not closed permanently due to the portraits.

In portraits, the image is not taken on the sly, portrait demands require and get the attention of the model as well as achieve a tuning with the photographed person. There is, therefore, images taken surreptitiously but anyone who claims that Bresson portraits no "decisive moments" wrong is what can be more fleeting than the expression of a face? It is perhaps in the portrait where the "decisive moment" of Bresson to speak with clarity: ".. .the fulminant aperture is like a mosquito bite, you have to reach the model"between the skin and the shirt", in a moment of silence in the lightest way that is possible, so the sting is less painful".

Outstanding work

Shanghai. Shanghai, 1949. Black and white.The photographer worked for almost all the major international newspapers. In "Shanghai" a tumult of people huddle against the window of a boat with violence and calm at a time, which creates great tension in the Viewer. The decisive moment is expressed as surprised as by random faces, frozen by the relentless eye of a unfortunate observer.

Rue Mouffetard. Paris, 1958. Black and white.A street scene in which a child, with haughty gesture and smile contrived in the foreground of the composition, advances decided towards carrying two bottles of wine, one under each arm. The definition of boy makes dump look upon him for later, once ransacked his funny expression, go take inland discovering in blurring the quizzical gaze of two girls who watch him at close range.

Portraits. Starting from 1970. Black and white."The model should be delivered in the portrait and not to engage in other activities - points Bresson - to, from his gesture, expressing his truth and his relationship with the world and life". From Matisse to Giacometti, from Duchamp to the Curie (Marie Curieand Pierre Curie), Chagall, Sartre, Picasso or Madame Chanel, a gallery of characters articulate the human truth of a "decisive" meeting with Bresson with their faces.


CARTIER-BRESSON, Henri: Images to the sauvette. Ed. Verve, Paris, 1952.

SOUGEZ, Marie-Loup: history of photography. Chair. 2nd Edition. Madrid, 1985.

VV.. The photography of the 20th century. TASCHEN. Cologne, 1997.