I’ve put the name in quotes because I’m talking about the documentary that’s currently running in the program cinemas in Germany. The film itself was nothing extraordinary, but seeing and hearing Cartier-Bresson talk about his life and experiences and discussing some of his images was great.
Cartier-Bresson established the term “the decisive moment” and referred to the one and only moment where all elements of the scene — moving and static objects, lines, shapes and forms — all come together to form the perfect image. Miss that moment, and the image is gone forever. Cartier-Bresson worked virtually all of his life with a Leica M, a 50 mm lens and fast black-and-white films and composed his images so perfectly in the viewfinder that no cropping was needed when printing. He saw the camera simply as a tool for holding what the eye saw and the mind judged as worthwhile holding. In the movie he talks about observing a scene and his mind going “no, no, no, yes, no…” The “yes” was the decisive moment and all the “no” images were not worth taking.
Cartier-Bresson also shot many portraits, all of them very unique, very intriguing. In the movie he talks how he never posed his subjects and always tried to get them to forget that the camera was even there.
So how does one begin to approach such photographic greatness? I don’t know, but I know that Cartier-Bresson always had his camera along and walked the streets for hours on end looking for images. He was also a painter, graphic artist and musician and had a background in art and cinema.
One more proof that photography is not about equipment, but about seeing…