Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Posts Tagged ‘Hyeres

Hyeres, Cartier-Bresson

with 10 comments

All takes to be a photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson once said, is “one finger, one eye and two legs”. Then, Cartier-Bresson must have possessed one of the best eyes in the business. Born in 1908 in Paris into a wealthy family, Cartier-Bresson had a lusty, rebellious hunger for travel. With a head full of Rimbaud and a copy of “Ulysses” under his arm, he set off for west Africa in search of adventure. (He aspired to be a painter, but Gertrude Stein suggested he drop the brushes).

He bought his first Leica in the Côte d’Ivoire when he was 23. It fitted into his pocket, along with a few rolls of film. With this new and light equipment — it and rolls of film fitted nicely into coat pockets — Cartier-Bresson would document everyone from Balinese dancers and Mongolian wrestlers to Spanish matadors and New York bankers. When snapping a spectacle—be it a coronation, a sporting event, or a parade—he trained his camera on the unsuspecting bystanders. He would wait until that “decisive moment” when the right composition filled the frame. And it all came so naturally, too: he rarely used a light meter, checked his aperture setting, took more than a few shots of a single subject, and almost never cropped his photos.

The photo above was taken in 1932 in Hyeres, a small town on the French Riviera, and has been featured in many retrospectives on Cartier Bresson’s work. The decisive moment here nicely juxtaposes the fleeting biker with the spiral staircase; the poignancy of the moment is accentuated by the fact that although the photo seems as if it was taken accidentally or on the spot, we can also imagine Cartier-Bresson crouching over those railings in Hyeres for hours, waiting for the right instant. I choose the image here because of a funny internet-age back story. Without mentioning that it was taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson, someone has posted the photo in a flickr group for public criticism. Most commentators ripped the photo apart (especially the blurry biker part) in the comments that are scathing and hilarious. De gustibus non est disputandum, indeed.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

October 21, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Posted in Culture, Society

Tagged with , ,

%d bloggers like this: