Because of artists like Henri Cartier-Bresson,
we can now see photographic works as pieces of art, in a way
that we never could before. He actually was a painter before
he was a photographer. He had a natural love for painting that
began in his childhood.
Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson
Cartier-Bresson entered a studio in Paris owned
by Andre Lhote, who was not well known. He felt that this artist
taught him to "read and write", and that his photographs
came from his painting training. He started to feel discomfort
when he thought of Lhote's artistic approach, but his training
would enable him to confront and resolve any artistic composition
and form problems. But he resolved them with photography.
In 1925, Cartier-Bresson attended Surrealist gatherings,
even though he was not of their generation. He said that he
learned from them, not by their painting, but by the role of
intuition and spontaneous expression.
Cartier-Bresson would grow up in an environment
that was stormy, both culturally and politically. He did not
feel that he was able to express these feelings in his paintings
of the time. He actually destroyed many early paintings, because
he was frustrated by his own experiments.
The then-artist lived in Africa for a time, and
he felt that he needed to tell the villagers' stories with an
instrument that was faster than the brush. He began shooting
photographs, and only seven of them have survived to this day.
He also continued painting. After suffering from black water
fever, he returned home to France.
The introduction of the Leica camera, which was
small and light in weight, was a positive influence for Cartier-Bresson.
He felt that it expressed what he saw with his eyes. He also
felt that he could give meaning to his world, by capturing what
he saw in the viewfinder. He traveled in Mexico, Spain and Eastern
Europe, living among the poor peoples he found. André
Pieyre de Mandiargues, a writer of the time, said that Cartier-Bresson
had a genius for photography.
The former artist's photographs of the time showed
his love of life's "infinite sensual complexities".
Many of his pictures were taken on the street, and dealt with
the everyday lives of people around him. The first exhibition
of his work, in 1935 in Mexico, was so successful that he had
another at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York.
Cartier-Bresson was quite fascinated with moving
images. Friends and admirers of his work felt that his bursts
of photographic creativity were simply intervals between other
artistic expression forms. He went on to study film under Paul
Strand in New York. He may have been trying to use film to bring
to life even more quickly the world's scars.
The artist-turned-photographer was also an actor
in 1939, when Renoir had him act so that he would be able to
understand the point of view of being in a film, as well as
making them. He did determine that his talents were best utilized
by taking photographs. He joined the French army as a photographer
in World War II and was in a prison camp for three years. He
escaped on his third try, and traveled back to Paris, where
he joined the resistance. He photographed the occupation of
the Nazis and the countries' ultimate liberation. He is considered
by many to be the father of modern photojournalism. His works
will live on as an expression of what he saw in the world of
The Rumor Mill
The rumor mill has turned up a few dirty little
secret about Henri Cartier-Bresson. For instance not only is
he considered to be the father of modern photojournalism, but
also the father of the TV game show "Family Fudd"
starring Elmer plus wife and kids.