Henri Cartier-Bresson “L’amour tout court”

Watch the Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary ‘L’amour de court’ (‘Just plain love’, 2001) available in five parts on YouTube:


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L’amour tout court

I found this documentary very enlightening. Cartier-Bresson states “What matters is to look” when he described his method. He said “Most people don’t look, they identify, but do not see past it, very few do it” This is a very true statement, simply pressing a button is not enough. I believe you have to feel what is behind your photograph otherwise it won’t be believable if you do not believe it yourself. It got me questioning as to whether I can be guilty of simply pressing a button sometimes.

Cartier-Bresson believed strongly in luck, he said “it’s always luck….the photographer just has to be receptive” When you are taking photographs of un-staged scenes there is always the element of luck involved, you just have to keep yourself in the present moment and not allow the mind to wander off. It made me think about how photography for me, is like a form of meditation. I take my best photographs when I am completely immersed in the moment, without expectation or other things on my mind so what he describes is very true, for me at least.

Cartier-Bresson explained that the golden number (ratio) is “in the eye”. You could call this a photographers eye, it’s about knowing that what you see and capture is unified as a whole. That the picture is harmonious and pleasing to the eye.

The interviewer asks him “Can one learn to look?” he scoffed and replied “Can one learn to have sex?” Meaning, of course, people can learn anything. This is an interesting point and is hard for me to completely agree with this. It runs along the same lines as having an ear for music, you can certainly develop a perception but in my opinion, there must be something more natural about it. Otherwise, I think a photograph would feel forced. Developing upon a natural inclination to see, yes certainly this is possible.

He followed on by saying “all that matters is love” I think this is the basis for developing any skill. You need to have a natural love (which can be discovered at any time in life) for the thing you are doing. Love shows through a photograph in my opinion.

Cartier-Bresson wanted his subjects to be unaware of him and made many efforts to go unnoticed, including painting his camera black. His ability to remain invisible is quite remarkable and I think comes with time and effort. Perhaps, it’s because he melted into the world around him and stopped noticing himself? He became fully absorbed in the present moment and forgot everything else including himself which helped him to capture some of the most wonderful candid photography in history. He is certainly a man to be admired and draw inspiration from.