Henri Cartier-Bresson: My Inspiration

We are all inspired by someone or other in our lives, our work, our decisions. Henri Cartier-Bresson’s body of work, the pioneer of street photography and the father of photojournalism, has long been a considerable source of influence on me as an aspiring photographer. Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) travelled widely for his work, and he used photography as a tool for observing his surroundings and for capturing those fleeting moments otherwise passed unnoticed. This is exactly the kind of approach to photography I prefer, where nothing is contrived, and subjects are captured at ease, often unknowingly, in their ambient surrounding. When I went on a 36-hour Paris trip this week, I just could not miss the vast, comprehensive retrospective exhibition on Henri Cartier-Bresson currently on show at the Pompidou Centre. Over 500 works are presented at this major exhibition, spanning most of Breton’s lifetime. However, the series of photographs that jumped out at me was the collection of images that Henri Cartier-Bresson took whilst on a work trip to the Soviet Union in 1954, and then again in the early 70s. He travelled there for the first time at the height of the Cold War following the death of Joseph Stalin; he was the first foreign photojournalist to have been granted a visa by the Soviet Union since 1947.  Through his photographs he wanted to show the Western public that Russian people were in reality the same as them by recording their everyday, often quite mundane, life. The photographs for this post were taken from a wonderful book Henri Cartier-Bresson: Europeans by Jean Clair . The exhibition Henri Cartier-Bresson is on at Centre Pompodou until 7th June: if you get chance, catch it while you can!

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s most widely reproduced photograph from his first trip to Russia in 1954: even Russian men look at pretty women on the street.

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s most widely reproduced photograph from his first trip to Russia in 1954: even Russian men look at pretty women on the street.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: My Inspiration

Image 9

Worker and supervisor, car factory, Moscow, USSR, 1954

Sports Gala, Dynamo Stadium, Moscow, USSR, 1954

Sports Gala, Dynamo Stadium, Moscow, USSR, 1954

Pinoeer camp, near Moscow, USSR, 1954

Pinoeer camp, near Moscow, USSR, 1954

Swan Lake, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, 1954

Swan Lake, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, 1954

Guard of honour at a ceremony commemorating Leningrad's liberation, USSR, 9 May 1973

Guard of honour at a ceremony commemorating Leningrad’s liberation, USSR, 9 May 1973

Image 18

Lenin’s Mausoleum, Red Square, Moscow, USSR, 1972

Agricultural show, Moscow, USSR, 1954

Agricultural show, Moscow, USSR, 1954

Lenin's and Stalin's Mausoleum, Red Square, Moscow, 1954

Lenin’s and Stalin’s Mausoleum, Red Square, Moscow, 1954

St George's Day, Alaverdi Monastery, Telavi, Georgia, USSR, 1972

St George’s Day, Alaverdi Monastery, Telavi, Georgia, USSR, 1972

Washerwomen, Suzdal, USSR, 1972

Washerwomen, Suzdal, USSR, 1972

Near Irkutsk, Siberia, USSR, 1972

Near Irkutsk, Siberia, USSR, 1972

Dance contest, cellulose factory, Tallinn, Estonia, USSR, 1973

Dance contest, cellulose factory, Tallinn, Estonia, USSR, 1973



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