Friday, February 07, 2020

Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, 'Chine'

Going to photography exhibits helps your art, educates your eye and will inspire you - the best mix of history and art. Last Sunday I saw Chine at the Cartier-BressonFoundation in the Marais. This exceptional exhibit of 130 photographs on his time in China during historic change is closing Sunday, the 9th. If in Paris, go see it.
HCB shot the last stage of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, covered the last six months of the Kuomintang administration and the first 6 months of the Maoist People’s Republic.
A world-renown photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004)was born in Paris in the 8th arrondissement to a well-to-do family. He started painting at 14 and continued studying art and sketching at the Louvre till he was 24 when he picked up the camera. He considered it a sketch tool and shot for the next 50 years of his life.
"Photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”
"Poetry is the essence of everything, and it’s through deep contact with reality and living fully that you reach poetry. Very often I see photographers cultivating the strangeness or awkwardness of a scene, thinking it is poetry. No. Poetry is two elements which are suddenly in conflict — a spark between two elements. But it’s given very seldom, and you can’t look for it. It’s like if you look for inspiration. No, it just comes by enriching yourself and living.“ 
"Technique is important only insofar as you must master it in order to communicate what you see… The camera for us is a tool, not a pretty mechanical toy. In the precise functioning of the mechanical object perhaps there is an unconscious compensation for the anxieties and uncertainties of daily endeavor. In any case, people think far too much about techniques and not enough about seeing.”
HCB used a framework of geometry to set off his evocative figures. You have focus to see the repeated patterns, leading lines, dark and light contrast, figure-ground relationships.
I tried analyzing some of his images by overlaying leading lines, angles, triangles, repeating patterns. Its a good way to learn.
Or try sketching directly in a book. I've always been a book-wrecker. Lagerfeld said he always bought 2 book copies - one to wreck and one to keep.
A layout from Life magazine. 
Some things to consider. - HCB never cropped his photos. He didn't printed them either. He let the lab do that. There was no image fiddling. And no photoshop  then. He stuck with a simple hand-held Leica using mainly a 50mm lens.
The camera's metal parts were painted black to appear less noticeable in the street. He considered luck, timing plus intuition and his knowledge of art the essential ingredients to his success. A modest, street-smart man. He tells all in this rare video interview when he was 90. Its well worth the watch.
"I have always been passionate about painting,” writes Cartier-Bresson. “As a child, I painted on Thursdays and Sundays, and dreamed about it every other day.” At 74 HBC put his Leica down, picked up the paint brush again and painted out his window on 198, rue de Rivoli facing the Tuillerie gardens the rest of his life. Why am I telling you this? Because much of his mastery of "the decisive moment" was the result of years training his eye to look. And copying old master paintings in the Louvre.  Shall I go sketch at the Louvre tonight? It's open to 9:45pm on Fridays.Thanks for reading Parisbreakfast. Please share with a friend.Get a taste of Paris letters and watercolors in your mailbox ๐Ÿ“ฎ. xxx๐Ÿ’‹Carolg and Bear ๐Ÿป 

20 comments:

Jane said...

I learned things I didn’t know about HCB. Sorry I will miss the exhibit. ��

Parisbreakfasts said...

Yes an astonishing artist
I had no idea how much a roll art played in his photograghs.

Kathleen said...

Loved it all!

Bonelle said...

Amazing that he used a simple Leica. In photography school (way back in the day!), we were taught to compose your photo through the viewfinder...cropping was a cheat. Now, everything is Photoshopped to death.

Parisbreakfasts said...

Yeah and he had ways of holding the camera so people wouldnt know he was taking their picture!

Lars said...

I particularly detest colors being pushed to absurd lengths. There is something about black & white photos...tells a story better. Another interesting Paris exhibit.

Parisbreakfasts said...

Black abd white value studies is the basis of most paintings - a griseille was always the first step beginning a painting.

Parisbreakfasts said...

Eeep its Grisaille

https://youtu.be/PNjScl56eko

Dorrance said...

That video you linked to is fabulous! What a chronicler of the 20th century. A life well lived. A nice, modest human being. To think he survived all of those amazing experiences.

Parisbreakfasts said...

I know I've watched it 4 X already. So much comtent it takes more than one watch. Several.

Suki said...

Fascinating. Thank you, Carol, you are quite a teacher and you enrich us in such an interesting way. I was not familiar with HCB, aside from his name, until I read and watched this.

Parisbreakfasts said...

Oh so glad you did Suki.
He's a god a,ong photographers but the general public may know his images but not the back story. I didnt really know myself.

Mrs Chelm said...

Loved his apartment in the YouTube video.
A room with a view. Great vantage point for sketching.
Amazing catalog of a life’s work.

Kirrabelle said...

Thanks for sharing Carol! You bring us so many interesting new artists to look at. Thank you.

La Table De Nana said...

He was like you:) The hidden cam:)

Lynn S. said...

Photography is one of my passions. I really love this piece by you. Thank you.

Parisbreakfasts said...

I wish Haha

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said...

I was born on January 1, 1949 in China. I now live in the Washington, DC area. I have always admired HCB but did not know that he was in China to photograph the changes going on at that time period. Thank you for highlighting this exhibit.

slf

Sketchbook Wandering said...

Yes, go sketch at the Louvre whenever you can!! Yes, photos as sketches. These are extraordinary photos, and your write up enhances them. Yes, training, as well as intuition...Love that he didn't crop. Thank you!