Henri Cartier-Bresson


French Photographer, Artist, considered father of modern photojournalism

Author Quotes

Photography is nothing--its life that interests me.

The camera, now as ever, empowers the individual to engage with others from the other side of town or the other side of the world.

There is one domain which photography has won away from painting ? or so it is claimed ? and that is portraiture. Faced with the camera, people proffer their best ?profile? to posterity. It is their hope, blended with a certain magic fear, to outlive themselves in this portrait, and here they give us a hold. The first impression we have of a face is frequently correct; if to this first impression others are added by further acquaintance, the better we know the person the harder it becomes to pick out the essential qualities. One of the touching features of portraiture is that it reveals the permanence of mankind, even if only in the family album. We must respect the surroundings which provide the subject?s true setting, while avoiding all artifice which destroys the authentic image. The mere presence of the photographer and his camera affects the behavior of the ?victim?. Massive apparatus and flash bulbs prevent the subject from being himself.

We often hear of ?camera angles? (that is, those made by a guy who throws himself flat on his stomach to obtain a certain effect or style), but the only legitimate angles that exist are those of the geometry of the composition.

Photography is only intuition, a perpetual interrogation ? everything except a stage set.

The chief requirement is to be fully involved in this reality which we delineate in the viewfinder. The camera is to some extent a sort of notebook for recording sketches made in time and space, but it is also an admirable instrument for seizing upon life as it presents itself.

There?s a particular kind of painting that is no longer practiced, that of portraiture, and there are those who say that the discovery of photography is the cause. It does seem apt to credit photography with the abandonment by painters of this painterly form. A subject wearing a military coat, a cap, and sitting on a horse can discourage even the most well-schooled painter, who feels overwhelmed by all the details of the costume. We, as photographers, are not bothered by all these details. Rather, we enjoy ourselves, because we can easily capture life in all its reality through our camera.

We photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory.

Photography is simultaneously and instantaneously the recognition of a fact and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that express and signify that fact.

The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box.

They... asked me: 'How do you make your pictures?' I was puzzled... I said, ?I don't know, it's not important.?

We seldom take great pictures. You have to milk the cow a lot and get lots of milk to make a little piece of cheese.

Photography is, for me, a spontaneous impulse coming from an ever attentive eye which captures the moment and its eternity.

The decisive moment, it is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.

Think about the photo before and after, never during. The secret is to take your time. You mustn't go too fast. The subject must forget about you. Then, however, you must be very quick. So, if you miss the picture, you've missed it. So what?

What is photojournalism? Occasionally, a very unique photo, in which form is precise and rich enough and content has enough resonance, is sufficient in itself - but that's rarely the case. The elements of a subject that speak to us are often scattered and can't be captured in one photo; we don't have the right to force them together, and to stage them would be cheating... which brings us to the need for photojournalism.

Photography, being dependent on reality, raises plastic problems which must be solved by the use of our eyes and by the adjustment of our camera. We keep changing our perspective in continual movement governed by rapid reflexes. We compose almost at the moment of pressing the shutter, moving through minutiae of space and time. Sometimes one remains motionless, waiting for something to happen; sometimes the situation is resolved and there is nothing to photograph.

The difference between a good picture and a mediocre picture is a question of millimeters ? small, small difference. But it?s essential. I don?t think there?s so much difference between photographers, but it?s that little difference that counts, maybe.

Thinking should be done before and after, not during photographing. Success depends on the extent of one's general culture. One's set of values, one's clarity of mind one's vivacity. The thing to be feared most is the artificially contrived, the contrary to life.

What reinforces the content of a photograph is the sense of rhythm ? the relationship between shapes and values.

Photography, for me is a supreme moment captured with a single shot.

The intensive use of photographs by mass media lays ever fresh responsibilities upon the photographer. We have to acknowledge the existence of a chasm between the economic needs of our consumer society and the requirements of those who bear witness to this epoch. This affects us all, particularly the younger generations of photographers. We must take greater care than ever not to allow ourselves to be separated from the real world and from humanity.

This recognition, in real life, of a rhythm of surfaces, lines, and values is for me the essence of photography; composition should be a constant of preoccupation, being a simultaneous coalition ? an organic coordination of visual elements.

Whatever we have done, Kertesz did first.

Photo-reporting presents the essentials of a problem, or it records an event or impressions. An event is so rich in possibilities that you hover around while it develops. You hunt for the solution. Sometimes you find it in the fraction of a second; sometimes it takes hours, or even days. There is no standard solution, no recipe; you must be alert, as in the game of tennis.

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French Photographer, Artist, considered father of modern photojournalism