Henri Cartier-Bresson: philosophy of image capture...

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by deantaylor, May 3, 2015.

  1. from a 1958 vinyl record titled “Famous Photographers Tell How"...an interview
    with Henri Cartier-Bresson in which the legendary photojournalist shares his thoughts
    on what photography is, the way he approaches it, and various opinions on
    theory and technique.
    http://petapixel.com/2015/05/03/an-interview-with-henri-cartier-bresson-from-1958/
     
  2. Henri Cartier-Bresson shot pictures, took pictures or made pictures. He did not do "image capture" :)
     
  3. Craig, maybe you might accept that in French you can in fact "catch" images. Cartier-Bresson was a "chasseur d'images" (image catcher or hunter).
     
  4. Henri put magic in his photos.
    How he approaches or the techniques he used is just matter of fact.... it is all about his magic eye.
     
  5. Is anyone still alive on this forum? Seen a few dead bodies but as yet unable to identify them...I think one had a J tattoo.
    Perhaps the Borg has assimilated them.
     
  6. Allen, perhaps we are overexposed to Henri and many other household names in photography (Adams, Capa, Penn, Brandt, Atget, etc.). While his thoughts are always valuable, curiosity and progress cry out for fresher thoughts on photography. The lack of those newer insights may be due to the age of many of us (and our past experience) and the indifference of the younger photographers?
     
  7. Could not agree more.
    But the majority of Photographers just cannot get beyond the old folk.....time has stopped for them.
    Photography ended with HCB and Ansell.
    Sort of seriously sad but that is the way the cookie crumbles.
     
  8. We are the Borg resistance is futile.
     
  9. He was generous to share his approach to capturing what he described as the decisive moment and which resulted in moments which seem to be induced as if "by grace". This was embraced by the entire editorial world after him and you have the in favor and the against and the neutral.
    I am 100% in favor as I feel photography is a term which applies to trying to do images which are as if painting with light and which capture an emotion something from the heart as opposed to a strict objectivism form approached in a technical and mechanical manner which may induce an emotion on a viewer but is void of its own spontaneity.
    His approach is by layers.
    he first found a stage and then picked up the leica as if a bullfighters cape and waited for the right moment and then he stoked and the relationship between the two works.
    Needless to say there will be many chances when things just happen and one has no role of agility or intervention but that is just like the phone ringing when someone else calls . That isn't our call.
     
  10. "Needless to say there will be many chances when things just happen and one has no role of agility or intervention but that is just like the phone ringing when someone else calls . That isn't our call".
    I think it is important to understand that Henri had a lifetime of exclusively taking photographs; we look at his best work among many many thousands of photographs.
    And his best work was very good but we have to understand there is a certain amount of nostalgia that comes into play when looking at the work of old time photographs/photographers.
    If think the legacy he left,wrongly, for many photographers that unless the photograph incorporated Henri ideals....the decisive moment they became a lesser art. Himself many times asked other photographers to do their own photography create their own art....not to be a copy of himself or anyone else.
     
  11. Allen what you say is correct but the point is that he didn't become recognized for his point of view over time but immediately and because making a comparison to life itself lets say life was a library and thousands of books and billions of pages and then trillions of words.
    One could argue that any good reading would not be a waste of time but professional photographers have an aim a language and an identity and while it is true that despite any and all efforts your goal may succeed better on occasion and fail miserably in others the point is furthering ones direction as opposed to getting distracted by the endless choices however tempting.
    In any event it was a different era when taste was more classic when it comes to the visual aspect but the approach is current and will be forever.
    Now even antithesis of his approach are valid to someone who is trying to find whatever niche has not been used before however abominable it may be someone is going to promote it as being the newest best thing ever but his approach did not need promotion and will survive forever on its own merit as one of the worthy approaches to people photography.
     
  12. William, I would like to thank for taking the time to respond.
    "he didn't become recognized for his point of view over time but immediately "William.
    Is that statement really true? He was born of very rich parents and was able to purchase a Leica camera which was the very cutting edge of technology at that time...a head start. Was he really that successful before the earlier version of Magnum was formed? it would be interesting to discuss his very early work.
    Perhaps he was riding on the wave of other already successful photographers...you know the names. Opportunity presented itself a lifetime of photographic opportunity.
    "because making a comparison to life itself lets say life was a library and thousands of books and billions of pages and then trillions of words."
    Writing and photography and anything else is all about time and opportunity...a book is not written with just a few line of s words.
     
  13. Don't get me wrong he one of my top 5 old masters.
    But it is good to question the easily percieved and look deeper.
     
  14. W hen I met him he had become a painter / no longer a photographer and wouldn't touch a leica with a 10 ft pole;)
    I think we have come to a crossroads in time when there are fewer and fewer chairs available that nobody has sat on and then the chairs one can sit on seem to be even fewer.
    Look at the presidential debates... I think looking and sounding presidential comes second to the purpose of the Job attainment which is that those who are presided over can be allowed to live with dignity instead of as presidiaries of a unacceptable economic disparagement in a system presenting itself as " the socialist side"
    I don't care who started what but feel the job description and the tone vary with the times.
    Photography is similar in a way. unfortunately in the early days photography was a rich mans game .
    My great great great grandad karl peter Mazer was one of the earliest photographers a painter turned darerreotypist in the court of the Romanovs .
    The my grandad was Evita Perons photopgrapher in Buenos Aires and his family was very poor but he was clever and would take his box camera to the Argentinian beach of Mar Del Plata and shoot 3 plates for a dollar.
    In the days of world war one a dollar in Argentina equals what you would get for 300.00 today so in a few years he made the equivalent of a million dollars then bought houses.
    When the war ended the dollar value changed over night he sold the houses and now had a million dollars.
    Capa got a break because he had talent but three times the cojones. and the third musketeer was Depardon who I haven't met but once made a camera for him.
    The obstacles which are relevant to great picture taking however have nothing to do with having been born with a silver spoon in your mouth but a bright as silver ability to focus on 1000 things concurrently.
    Money then can bridge some gaps in terms of staying on course and getting there but its a bit overated perhaps because as with any business there is a marketing pressure to own every stupid accessory filter grip and connector ever made.
    I started shooting with one camera and one lens and did most of my career that way.
    When Kodak had me give fashion photography seminars in the Caribbean the commercial photographers attending would show up with trunks and trunks and trunks of gear and as many assistants.
    I was working for Vogue- none of them did or did since. I was poor - they were quite affluent by comparison.
    I think a good portion of artists are wealth and get brakes and an equal amount of artists aren't and get brakes but those who aren't affluent usually have great personalities and which is worth more than all the money in the world.
    And regarding evolution I once had a few brief encounters with an art Director Alexander Liberman who told me that the creative life of a photographer is like that of a butterfly - he must transform evolve adapt ot his creativity dies.
    I burnt my first photographs ;)
     
  15. Once again thank you for your response. I have the feeling Im talking to History itself which deserves a measured and thoughtful response. Please bear with me while I take in your thoughts and fascinating post before I respond.
     
  16. "When I met him he had become a painter / no longer a photographer and wouldn't touch a leica with a 10 ft pole;)
    I think we have come to a crossroads in time when there are fewer and fewer chairs available that nobody has sat on and then the chairs one can sit on seem to be even fewer"
    Everything in the world has been photographed therefore there is nothing new only the paint brush and the imagination. I don't see that particularly as the world is so diverse and so many experiences the photographer has open to them. The brush and the canvas is only creating what has been seen and experienced; the photographer is doing the same and both are creating art from their experiences and imagination...there is little difference.
    I think that Henri was too concerned with the hunt which he considered photography/documentry as. He perhaps should have understood the brush and canvas were just different tools not really different from the photographic process...both capable of expressing art in their own ways.
     
  17. Photography was Novel when my ancesters started playing with rudimentary and bulky toys and felt like pioneers and when the natives felt their soul was being stolen by the silver print.
    Photography isn't novel anymore and if someone takes a picture a la Bresson today it will not raise any eyebrows as we are desensitized by so much over exposure to imaging
    What has changed is back in the day people just lived without concern to relevance . 20 years ago a few lived la vida loca and the rest saw it on the weekends at the movies .
    Now its a different era where it seems everyone with a smart phone is out to vote on the rave of the day and after 10 years of that even social media gets old.
    There has been an assault on the western way of life as a result of economic debacles starting after the Irak war and it seems the trend is water down until we drown haha
     
  18. Photography isn't novel anymore and if someone takes a picture a la Bresson today it will not raise any eyebrows as we are desensitized by so much over exposure to imaging​
    My sense is that if someone takes a picture like Bresson today it will not raise any eyebrows because it's been done before and is nothing new and we've seen the many copycats, even long before smart phones came to be.
    There are plenty of fresh visions out there. Curators are culling through and finding them as they always have.
    In terms of my own photography, I'm not concerned with what sells or what's going to become world famous and I'm not concerned with "the crowd" or with what millions are doing or with the saturated airwaves or even with my own photos' wider visibility. I speak to a small crowd and am happy to do so. It's like having a chat with friends instead of being a TV talking head. It's like the corner jazz club vs. The Rolling Stones at the Garden. And even if my own small crowd in my own little pond misses something or isn't around for a bit, I'm expressing myself, exploring something I want to, allowing myself to see the world in a way that suits my imagination and intellect, and learning things about myself in the process.
    I have certain regrets about never having seriously worked with film in terms of understanding some of the basics and really learning the craft aspects of the darkroom, post processing, and printing. At the same time, it means I'm not jaded and am not in a position to experience photography as no longer novel (because it's novel to me), no longer as difficult or intricate. There's plenty that keeps me busy and involved and discovering.
    Think about it this way. Everybody for all time has been having sex. It's nothing new and nothing unique only to me, not terribly novel. Still love it!
     
  19. I think creative photographers try to have a understanding of the world and the life upon it through their photographs....a seeking and a understanding. It will never be achieved at best insights will be gained.
    The endless search and understanding...the great journey of life.
    00dS8Y-558147284.jpg
     
  20. William, when I have the opportunity to take photos Im doing it for me. Im out there in the world exploring for myself I don't really care a monkeys about what Henri has photographed or anyone else.
    Im doing my thing...looking for the lost city of the Incas and the source of the Nile.
     
  21. Fred + Allen= good points and precicely my point.
    If photography captures the experience of life then one can just " do it" or do it with an understanding and then have an aim.
    I would dare accuse that most forum or social media discussions focus on a 2 dimensional juxtapoisition and participants quasi demand that one variable should prevail over the other and by which the mattesr should be settled.
    we live in a Time space continuum and while Henri words were not a scientific as Einstein I would have to agree that when photographing life a successful photographer is as a juggler .
    The more dimensions which are taken into account concurrently make up for a " better decisive moment"
    that can be verified present and true in the ikonic photos everyone agrees are landmarks though one variable may be the one which seals the deal the other ones may be the icing on the cake.
    Both your responses are very true and what I say as well.
    We did care as to why and how when we were learning and on training wheels / now your niece with your iPhone clicks- you love it and who cares as to how or why.
    That is what has changed. We came we learned - we conquered and now we just want to do it. ;)
    Fred yesterday I watched the film 91/2 weeks with Mikey Rourke shot exactly 30 years ago.
    Ronnie boy was in the white house and credit cards were issued as if supermarket coupons and sex wasn't novel but it was sexy as to now people just do it or don't ;)
    If there were a point to the whole approach is that whether one gets paid for taking pictures or not the value ( aesthetic) is the same and the audience wants to hear what it is that you have to say.
    much the same as if with politics where it isn't popular to just make it up as you go along.
    If one doesn't care to have an audience for a personal message then obviously why not skip the nonsense altogether and voila.
    Henri chose a Leica because it was the most responsive / less intrusive tool at the time for that purpose many felt the same way about rangefinders.
    When I started assisting my grandfather I was 5 and getting my portrait taken by him with one of his mammoth cameras was like the anesthesia prior to root canal - it took forever and by the time he took the picture I was in the land of placidity or frustration.
    When I decided to try to bring the responsiveness of the Leica to large format thru my camera those who took pictures like my grandfather didn't see a point as they didn't seek the responsiveness or if they did they did sunny 16 and paparazzo style. that is a very limited approach no longer desirable.
    I think a very good analogy for this is a performance by female figure skaters in competition where the summation of concurrent variables in a set time seals the value of the performance.
    That is the decisive moment . some care- some dont
     
  22. I see nothing wrong with not being able to "get beyond the old folk". I find that many people who have "new insights" have only regressed to pictorialism in their efforts.
     
  23. Einstein said everything goes around in cycles. true progress or evolution isn't linear - that is presented as such by the consumism push to sell new products based on planned obsolescence in what refers to the monetary aspect which plays a role.
    The other aspect which plays a role from a philosophical standpoint is the groundhog day effect when the competitiveness to outperform our parents" not your grandfathers Oldsmobile" as in what is New is presented as inevitably better when no doubt a case can be made for convenience only until your intervention is entirely unnecessary as automation has rendered you and any intelligence required as obsolete.
     
  24. "Henri Cartier-Bresson shot pictures, took pictures or made pictures. He did not do "image capture" :)"
    Of course he did. He was all about the capture....are you stuck on the end of a fairy stick? Don't be shy...we will all undestand...
     
  25. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    The value of learning about history is to gain knowledge and avoid past mistakes. The future always beckons and most who are literate, will build on the past, not recreate it or enshrine it.
     
  26. mage capture (image acquisition) The process of obtaining a digital image from a vision sensor, such as a camera.
    Hello
     
  27. "Henri Cartier-Bresson shot pictures, took pictures or made pictures. He did not do "image capture" :)"
    mage capture (image acquisition) The process of obtaining a digital/film image from a vision sensor, such as a camera.
    Maybe its being in a different dimension thing.
     
  28. I find it irrelevant to give a title to whether he captured - took -stole images but I would emphasize that his contribution helped those who came after in obtaining clever pictures while capturing spontaneity instead of just compliance with clever technical complexities to then obtain what looks like any other boring mug shot.
    he reminded us not to waste time being crash test dummies for cameras film or sensors and to take pictures that excite the senses.
     
  29. Thank you for your response, William.
    I agree with you such old timers were the building blocks for future photographers..
    However, we must try to build our own building blocks and move on in our creativity...to offer building blocks ourselves to future photographers.
     

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