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Thread: Cartier-Bresson

  1. #1

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    Cartier-Bresson

    I saw a piece on Henri Cartier-Bresson the other night on PBS. The report said he had no interest in darkroom work, and I took that to mean that he didn't process and print his negatives. The photographs are wonderful, technically and aesthetically. I can't believe Cartier-Bresson would just hand off a roll to someone and say, "well, here it is, go develop and print it." He must have given whomever did the work some instructions on development. Does anyone know who he trusted to develop and print his negatives?

  2. #2

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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    Can't remember the name but he became fairly famous for doing C-B's printing. He wrote an article, or maybe even a book, in which he talked about how bad the negatives were and how difficult they were to print. I'm sure someone else will remember his name, it's in the dim recesses of my aged brain somewhere and refuses to come out right now.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  3. #3

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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    It's interesting to ponder C-B as a man who apparently had no interest in the relationship between exposure and development (or maybe he did have a handle on that). Whoever took his bad negatives and made them into masterful prints must have been an absolute genius in the darkroom.

  4. #4
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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    I always figured that it was this fact that lead him to insist on printing everything full-frame. Having someone else do his printing is one thing, but letting them crop the composition is another thing completely. It's easier to say "I have no interest in the process, I just take the pictures" when the darkroom worker is not allowed to alter the composition of the photograph. If I worked in a situation where someone else was printing my work, I would also insist that they print the whole frame. It would be the easiest way for me to maintain artistic autonomy and be able to call myself "the photographer".

  5. #5

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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    http://www.picto.fr/
    Pierre Gassmann was the printer

  6. #6

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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    According to some quotes, and he apparently had a lot to say about it, his primary if not the only concern was the moment of capture, the slice of time as he called it. Photography just happened to be tool that allowed it, but if there were any other tools he would've been just as happy to use them as well or instead.

    Here are some of his quotes that illustrate this attitude:

    Once the picture is in the box, I'm not all that interested in what happens next. Hunters, after all, aren't cooks.

    Photography has not changed since its origin except in its technical aspects, which for me are not important

    Photography is, for me, a spontaneous impulse coming from an ever attentive eye which captures the moment and its eternity.

    The photograph itself doesn't interest me. I want only to capture a minute part of reality.

    The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box.

    What reinforces the content of a photograph is the sense of rhythm – the relationship between shapes and values.

    Pictures, regardless of how they are created and recreated, are intended to be looked at. This brings to the forefront not the technology of imaging, which of course is important, but rather what we might call the eyenology (seeing).
    I can see how all of this can rub many a member of this board the wrong way, but his results are hard to argue with.

  7. #7

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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    I saw some of the Bresson greatest hits photos at the Met Museum a couple of years ago in a really really great show about photography from 1840-1940, and the quality of the prints was terrible. Bresson could barely get the light to stick to the film, underexposing it at least three stops. Who ever had to print that stuff must have cursed up a storm, in french of course with a Gauloises hanging out of his mouth and a glass of red wine on a shelf above the sink. Very civilized those French are.

    Robert Frank was the same way. His negs were considered unprintable. Sid Kaplan was the only person able to print Frank's negs and if it had not been for Kaplan, we might not have ever heard of Robert Frank.

    We need philosophers and engineers both to make life good.

  8. #8
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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    Quote Originally Posted by Marko View Post
    ...
    I can see how all of this can rub many a member of this board the wrong way, but his results are hard to argue with.
    Small film AND no interest in developing/printing?!?! The guy should have his fingers broken and his eyes put out and given an infraction point!

    Seriously, I find the contrast interesting. HCB is at the other end of the spectrum from the LF mentality. It's like 2 very different sports, they just both happen to be played with a camera.

    ...Mike

  9. #9
    Claudio Santambrogio
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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Anderson View Post
    Small film AND no interest in developing/printing?!?! The guy should have his fingers broken and his eyes put out and given an infraction point!
    Digital photography would just have been perfect for him.

  10. #10

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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Anderson View Post
    Seriously, I find the contrast interesting. HCB is at the other end of the spectrum from the LF mentality. It's like 2 very different sports, they just both happen to be played with a camera.

    ...Mike
    Well, he said something about that too:

    "Photography appears to be an easy activity; in fact it is a varied and ambiguous process in which the only common denominator among its practitioners is in the instrument."


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