HCB: We share his photographic DNA

One of the first things I did today was log on to my Amazon account and buy “Henry Cartier-Bresson: Photographer”. During last night’s week-long Sundance series on photographers, HCB was one of two featured photographers.

I hadn’t really looked at any of his photos in a few years and at first I thought, hey, his stuff kind of looks like mine. As one of my old professors used to say, “that’s exactly right…except you’ve got it backwards.” Backwards is a little bit of an understatement as I would never place myself on the same stage with Bresson…not even in the same room.

I watched an old Bresson hold up print after print in the documentary and realized he’s responsible for what many of us see as the standard in photography today. He invented this style (for lack of a better word) that was made possible by the “then” new Leica 35 mm camera. Compared to the larger, view cameras of the day, using a Lieca was like pulling out into milktruck traffic in a M3 BMW.

This camera portability allowed the photographer much more freedom of movement and subject matter. It ultimately was responsible for Bresson’s trademark “decisive moment”, that split second of time when peak action is achieved. The composition, action and light all converge in one moment and then as quickly as it appears it vanishes.

Or as the master says, “the eye, mind and heart have to be alligned.”

Most of the interviews were in French and with English subtitles. I think my favorite quote was: “You don’t have to know that much to be a photographer….just look”. Which in my mind is the equivalent of Brett Favre saying, “it’s not that hard, just throw the ball to the tall, skinny man streaking down the sideline.”

Tonight on Sundance:

Peter Beard:Scrapbook/Africa 6-7 p.m. CST

Also (rebroadcast)

Stars by Helmet Newton 7-8 p.m.


~ by keithphilpott on March 6, 2008.

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