HCB prints destroyed in Srinagar

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by preston_merchant, Apr 11, 2005.

  1. http://in.news.yahoo.com/050410/48/2ko51.html

    If you follow the news from Kashmir, you know that militants attacked
    a tourist station and hostel provided for people traveling on the new
    Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus.

    It turns out that the station housed a collection of Cartier-Bresson
    prints, all of which were destroyed. Ultimately replaceable perhaps,
    but the loss is regrettable and unfortunate.
  2. What a pity.There is a saying "When Elephants fight, its the grass that suffers ".
  3. damn militants.
  4. A large portion of the population in the U.S. were militants at one time. I guess it depends on your definition of militant, terrorist, gorrilla, revolutionary, or soldier.

    NOT THAT I AM SUPPORTING ANY OF THESE PEOPLE OR THEIR ACTIONS. JUST SOME THOUGHTS.I know zero about the conflict except it is in a beautiful land and it`s been going on a long time.

    I hope this is not considered political!
  5. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    Well Ron pretty much everything past to origional posting is Political. What Preston's post is about is the loss of a very well know and to many an extremel;y important photographers work which may or may not be replaceable (many of AA's prints can't be replaced as only he and only that print are printed that paticular way).

    All comments about the people who caused this loss could be thought of as political in nature.

  6. It's a shame, but if this was the only effect of the conflict I'd have no problem with it at all.
  7. In general, unlike AA, HCB did not print his own images. An AA image printed by AA will be more "valuable" than one printed by an associate from the same negative (these images, printed by an associate can be bought for a very reasonable amount through the AA Gallery). The overall creative force for AA was a combination of image making and printing that really cannot be seperated and have the historic importance of the image preserved.

    From my reading I do think HCB influenced his printer and had a printing style he wanted to convey (full frame, no cropping)but they were essentially always printed by an associate. He was after all a traveling photojournalist. If the negatives survive and prints were allowed to be made, I would think the images in question could be replaced, they would not have HCB direct involvement in the printing process but they could likely be printed to look like the ones lost.

    HCB has an extensive body of work from India so I would not know if the images in questions were prints of classic negatives or perhaps "snapshots" of the specifc region, sent as a gift. ( I think it would be easier to dupilicate images that have been printed a number of times as there would be more originals to compare with).

    It is sad when any work of art is needlessly destroyed, sadder still when innocent people meet the same fate.
  8. jtk


    I doubt HCB would have mourned the prints. He wasn't a print-maker in any case.

    Why were those prints in Kashmir? Faux-colonial interior decoration?
  9. When Elephants fight, its the grass that suffers.
    Thanks for that.
  10. In the language on the ground in Kashmir, people who take up the gun (be they Kashmiri natives or Pakistani irregulars) are called "militants." This distinguishes them from the Border Security Force (Indian) or the Pakistani Regular Army, which is accused of training militants and sending them into Indian-held Kashmir. This is all to say that there is no controversy from either side of the dispute as to what, exactly, is a "militant."

    Why are there HCB prints in Kashmir? He took a lot of pictures there in 1948 and later, one of which became quite famous (Muslim women praying at dawn in Srinagar).
  11. jtk


    Were the prints on display or simply in storage?

    That they may have depicted people from the region isn't necessarily an explanation for their presence in a war zone.

    Were the prints attacked directly or simply lost in a destroyed building?

    It's not unusual for people to be hostile to photographs...some view them as graven images, evil.
  12. I posted a thread in the News forum back in December concerning a number of photographs that were destroyed in a bank fire. The attitude I got was pathetic--along the lines of, "So what. Just shoot off another copy from the disc."

    This post reminded me of that so I revisited that thread today and added a final comment. It's a pretty sad commentary that such losses aren't considered a tragedy by all photographers.

    I hate to see creative work destroyed for any reason.
  13. John, do you know HCB's pictures from Srinagar? Did you read the Yahoo article?

    They were on display, and they were treasured by the locals. They were collateral damage in an attack.

    Kashmir hasn't always been a war zone. The insurgency began in the mid 1980s. Before that, it was India's biggest vacation spot, rather like Florida. Nearly every Indian of a certain age went there on holiday as a kid.
  14. I lived in Lahore Pakistan from 1962 to 1967. They were fighting in Kashmir then. Monthly clashes were common.
  15. jtk


    Preston, the link didn't work for me but I'll try to learn more about the loss in Kashmir.

    I can't agree that this was an artistic tragedy, not because I don't admire HCB but because I don't think the print is the image or the legacy. Yes, some people undoubtedly lost a connection to a friend or to a legendary European artist. That's sad.

    But HCB's important legacy is the influence he's had on other photographers ... the poor quality reproductions in various magazines are far more important than his lab's prints.

    It's also sad that in Kashmir, an area that once might have felt healthy atheistic C'han Buddhism, superstions became dominant.

    "The Ancient Greeks" that are constantly evoked in sleepy art history classes believed that "Art" was inherently ephemeral..the term didn't apply to permanent objects, only to performances such as poetry and dance. Photography itself, rather than to prints.
  16. Several years ago I attended classes at The Art Institue of Chicago concerning the
    collection of photography. The photo curator showed a print from the Museum's
    collection made by HCB in Paris and several others printed by his New York assistant. It
    was amazing to see the poor quality of the great man's own darkroom effort. No wonder
    he dropped that side of photography.

    Also showed three prints of AA's "Moonrise" each printed by him during a different decade
    of his life. Remarkable how different each was from the others. As you might suspect,
    they got progressively darker and more contrasty the later they were made. Guess he
    really believed that the print was the performance.
  17. "... the poor quality reproductions in various magazines are far more important than his lab's prints." I saw an original copy of HCB's book, "The Decisive Moment," at a craft show. I was shocked at the quality of the photographs in this book. The all looked like original prints placed into a book. Is that how they did books in those days? Nothing I've seen in recent books or on the web come close to that original book. I really wanted to buy it, but the asking price was around $ 1,200. $ 500 and I would have seriously considered it. And this was before he died, so I assume the price has gone up again.
  18. HCB's reputation in India (Kashmir and elsewhere) is very positive. He took some of the last photographs of Gandhi before he was assassinated, as well as some of the "softer" side (if you can call it that) of Partition. Margaret Bourke White photographed much of the carnage of 1947-48, but HCB focussed more on people's lives, doing laundry in refugee camps, stuff like that.

    His work in Kashmir is also highly regarded, mostly because he happened to shoot just as the region became embroiled in post-Partition violence and politics. The scenes he photographed could easily be hundreds of years old. The region changed very quickly when the armies rolled in and never left.

    The loss of the prints at the tourist office is minor, of course, but it's still unfortunate, rather like the loss of a guestbook in an old hotel. HCB said that, along with Mexico, India was "a haven for his heart."

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