“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.”
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) is one of the most influential photographers of all time. Many even consider him the best photographer, the “eye of the century”. He started out as a photojournalist and documentary photographer. HCB travelled the whole world. His trips led him to India, Africa, China, the USA, and all over Europe. He brought back extraordinary photo reportages that touched both the senses and the heart. They were like movies told in several images that would play inside the head of the observer; informing, documenting and raising questions.
Yet Henri Cartier-Bresson did not only deeply influence generations of news photographers, he also left his imprint on the genre of street photography. In 1968 he gradually withdrew from photographing and dedicated more time to painting.
The legendary French photographer coined the term of the decisive moment. Henri Cartier-Bresson himself summed up this concept as follows: “To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality.”
“Henri Cartier-Bresson was a true master of photographic composition, of anticipating the right moment when everything coincided in perfect harmony and geometry.”
It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.” His images all seem to be examples of the decisive moment. Henri Cartier-Bresson was a true master of photographic composition, of anticipating the right moment when everything he saw through the viewfinder of his Leica coincided in perfect harmony and divine geometry. There’s a great book called “The Mind’s Eye” in which HCB nicely explains his way of thinking about photography. You might also want to check out “Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, The Image & The World” for a full overview of the life and work of this outstanding image maker.
But Henri Cartier-Bresson is not only the father of the “decisive moment” and author of hundreds of iconic, worldwide famous images, but also the founder of prestigious Magnum agency which he’d founded together with Robert Capa, David Seymour and George Roger in 1947.
The 5 Best Photography Movies About Henri Cartier-Bresson
- Documentary film about Henri Cartier-Bresson: “Pen, Brush, and Camera” (1998) Excellent documentary which shows the artist talk about his images. It was shot when HCB was in London for some major exhibitions of his work.
- Short Movie: “A Day In The Life” – Henri Cartier-Bresson This film is an homage to HCB. With music in the background, it combines little texts about Cartier-Bresson’s biography with moving pictures. It’s not the famous photographer himself acting in this short movie, but it’s a fictional piece of what the director thinks a day in the life of HCB must have looked like.
- “Just Plain Love” Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 One of the best photography films ever made. This portrait brings to life the author of so many legendary images that have become part of modern visual culture.
- Henri Cartier-Bresson reveals the secrets behind his images The founder of Magnum Photos explains the making of some of his most famous images and reveals secrets about his way of framing and capturing the “decisive moment”.
- “One to one” – Interview with Henri Cartier-Bresson Listen to the great French photographer talk about his work. This is one of the view interviews Henri Cartier-Bresson conceded.
If you are interested in photography films, please check out the list of the 10 best photography movies of all times.