My contextual studies assignment was on Henri Cartier-Bresson, in preparation for this I researched him, I feel I learn best when researching to watch documentaries and interviews about the subject when possible.
Henri Cartier-Bresson Interview:
I am already familiar with a lot of Bresson’s work but this interview was a great way to see the man behind the iconic photography. Bresson seems to be a very humble man with not as much a passion for photography but a passion for geometric shape, natural form and composition. He started out a sketch artist and painter but then transferred to photography, he says ‘photography is an instant drawing’ It is just a means of drawing for him. Very influenced by surrealism, which I think is evident in lots of his work. Several times throughout the interview Bresson refers to himself as an ‘anarchist’. I think what Bresson means by this is that he goes against the natural order of what an artist is supposed to be, a person that rebels against order, in his case the order is how his predecessors saw art and photography. By rebelling he has subsequently created a genre of art/photography in documenting the world in a beautiful way. Much more can be taken from this interview and I will rewatch it several times, I think its a fantastic insight into Henri Cartier-Bressson.
The Decisive Moment:
Bresson here talks about the decisive moment, he says ‘life is once forever’, he is interested in capturing moments that will never again happen but with composition and geometric form, it is a pleasure. “The different between a good picture and a mediocre picture is within millimetres”, he is saying here that shooting a photograph from a certainly angle can create a well composite photograph but shooting the same photograph from a different angle could make the image less successful composition wise and there for make the image not at a high standard.
He talks about how he finds it hard to take a good portrait, he likes to go into the persons natural habitat for example there home. ‘You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt, which is not an easy thing’. He wants to shoot the real person and not the persona that people put on when they know they are being photographed, to catch them of guard. He believes peoples lives are written on their faces, so why disguise your life with a fake smile. Bresson likes to establish a contact with the person he is taking a portrait of, often asking them questions and listening to them speak whilst shooting photographs.
Impulsive when shooting photographs, not thinking but feeling when to shoot, he speaks of the decisive moment as just a knowing when to shoot. ‘Everything is interesting’.
Henri Cartier-Bresson In action:
Although this is in French this is a very intriguing bit of footage. It shows how Bresson moves through the world when he is shooting photographs, where he looks and most importantly when he presses the shutter.
At about the one minute mark he is standing next to a stack creates, then the angle of the camera moves which tells me he must have been stood there for at least a few minutes because it would have taken that to move the camera to the second angle. This indicates that Bresson would have spotted something he wants to shoot but was waiting for the decisive moment to push the shutter, then he tiptoes and promptly takes the photograph.
Thought the short clip we see him scanning the area with incredible speed and often double taking to look in a direction, looking for opportunities to shoot.
In the final seconds of the video we see Bresson shooting a photograph and then we get to see the photograph he shot.