Henri Cartier-Bresson, a pioneer of modern photojournalism and co-founder of the Magnum news agency, is without a doubt one of the greatest photographers of all time.
His photos are iconic works in the history of photography and important witnesses to the attention of the contemporary world. Born in Chantelope-Brie, France in 1908, Bresson was a gifted photographer who established photography as an art form, adept at capturing fleeting realities.
Bresson sees photography as a means of expression, like music or poetry, to express oneself; photojournalists like him provide a means of witnessing through images. Bresson also sees photography as a means of earning a living.
As a journalist, Bresson was not concerned with the aesthetics of the print itself—quality, tone, depth, texture, etc.—but with the image. Life emerges first, then aesthetics. He believed that after the pictures were printed, although beautiful and perfectly composed, they were not made for the salon. All the pictures printed for exhibitions do not need language, just need a title and some comments, but photography is not entirely interpretive. The context of the picture constitutes its own language. Instead of designing pictures based on existing words, journalists write articles based on pictures, matching words with pictures.
Photographers are participants of world activities and life, they are not bystanders.
Bresson's focus is almost exclusively on people, but, as a journalist rather than a studio photographer, he didn't arbitrarily separate people from their environment, from where they "live". The exterior (or interior) of the subject's life and actions is an important context. Bresson used this background to place his subjects, to give them importance, and to treat them with the respect they deserve. When shooting portraits, he doesn't fiddle with subjects, he just observes, and when features emerge, he hits the shutter.
Bresson's approach to shooting is based on respect, but it has to be real and realistic: no noise, no personal ostentation, no "preparation" of anything, no "arrangement" of anything, the subject is just there. Shooting with purpose, procedural composition, and not relying on intuition, will not make good photos. The only art lies in the human mind of the photographer, the way he sees things, and the coincidences of being at a particular time and place. Bresson emphasizes taking and composing pictures by instinct.
Bresson considered himself a classicist. Most of the pictures are taken in uniform light, and he thought Chaplin's films are the best, with all the light coming from the same side at sunset. Bresson wasn't interested in creating an effect. Plus, nothing is more precise than real life. So, to keep things real, Bresson never used flash because it's not the light of life.
Photography must be realistic, authenticity is the greatest strength of photography.
A photojournalist cannot separate form and content, there is a complete interrelationship between them. The work of salon photographers and school photographers often has beautiful forms, but it is very hollow and empty. The content of a journalist's photography is very important and must be presented accurately in graphic form to avoid being weakened or even destroyed. The perfect combination of form and content (naturally), this is the core.
Bresson's photographs are strikingly structured, almost entirely planes of geometric lines and proportions. At the same time, he was one of the few photographers who banned cropped photos. To that end, he explained that cropping is like a dub movie, or a pretty girl after plastic surgery, whose face is empty and tasteless. Composition is the only truth when shooting, even for journalists. Some of Bresson's photos are arranged in 1/100th of a second and fully followed the golden ratio.
Bresson believed that the camera is an extension of the line of sight, so he liked to put the camera at eye level. The shooting technique is instinctive, having to capture the desired scene in hundredths of a second. Depending on the strength of the lens and the needs of the scene, he would choose shots of different depths, but he wouldn't fill a suitcase full of shots. He didn't use wide-angle lenses very often, because there are so many things on the same plane that make composition difficult.
Bresson liked sharp photos, he doesn't smoke or drink, and uses tripods and monopods to keep the camera steady. Any slight movement can cause the photo to be unsharp and not achieve the desired effect. Bresson believed sharpness is a style, not a technique. In his opinion, too many photographers focus more on technique and forget about style, which is the more important thing.
编译/ Cindy Mary
审核/ Celine Louis