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Went to a Cartier-Bresson exhibition the other day...

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Luckypenguin, Dec 6, 2011.

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    The weekend before last I took the opportunity to visit an exhibition of some of Henri Cartier-Bresson's work at the Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art, titled Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, The Image & The World. This was the first time that I'd had the chance to see a large collection of Bresson's work in print. It contained some iconic images that I'd seen before, and many that I had the pleasure of seeing for the first time. Viewing his work gave me pause to think about Cartier-Bresson's approach to the world of photography that he had such a big influence on. I thought I might jot down some of the impressions that the exhibition left me with.

    • HCB's approach to street photography impressed from the point of view that he didn't just seek to photograph people in the street, but to use the street as a frame to his subjects. Being able to combine "the moment" and composition is a rare talent indeed.

    • The standard focal length may be just, well...standard, but magic lies within that natural field-of-view.

    • Focus and sharpness is a component of photography, but not always the most important component that it is often made out to be.

    • One of the keys to making a timeless image is to make the image reveal when it was taken. An image of a flower (for example) may be beautiful, but an image that records people, in a place, at a time, is a piece of history.

    • There's talent. There's opportunity. There's access. Combine all three and the result is a collection of work like this that will amaze and inspire. Worth the price of admission many times over.

    After viewing the exhibition, with camera in hand, I tried to channel but a fraction of what I had just learned. My choice of exotic locations was limited, so the walk back to the train station had to suffice. I can only try...

    Pen E-PL1 + Lumix G 20mm f1.7

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  2. Mellow

    Mellow Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2010
    Florida or Idaho
    I like #4 and #5 especially, though I would have tried to avoid cutting off the tops of the umbrellas in #4. #5 seems very unlike C-B, though I love the composition and the energy.

    • Like Like x 1
  3. Markb

    Markb Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 9, 2011
    Kent, UK
    Nothing like HCB. They're in focus and properly exposed :biggrin:

    I really like 1 and 6. So much street photography today is very random. HCB may not have spent any time focusing or changing aperture but he did use his viewfinder. Maybe cameras should have a "composition priority" mode. It would use an eye sensor to lock the shutter release and prevent "shooting from the hip". No motor drive either, "decisive moment" drive only :wink:
    • Like Like x 1
  4. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 10, 2011
    Ashland, OR USA
    I saw the same exhibit in SF earlier this year. It was one of those do-not-miss exhibits. If only some of his skill would rub off on me. :rolleyes: 

    I think #5 & #6 are the best of your set.

    • Like Like x 1
  5. cameronp

    cameronp Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 10, 2011
    Kent, UK
    Ooh, I like #1, #4 and #6 here.

    Looking at HCB prints in the flesh is a good reminder to stop fussing so much about a lot of the photo-tech stuff we keep thinking is so important.
    • Like Like x 2
  6. peterbee

    peterbee Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 2, 2011
    Huddersfield, UK
    Peter Bartlett
    I remember seeing a major HCB exhibition many years ago at the V&A in London - His work is inspirational to anyone interested in documentary photography. I often leaf through the 2 or 2 books I have of his photographs.

    Thanks for sharing your images with us. I really enjoyed the last two in the set.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. fin azvandi

    fin azvandi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 12, 2011
    South Bend, IN
    I browsed through a couple of his books when I started getting interested in street photography, hope to catch an exhibit someday! I like the first and last photos here the best.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. digitalandfilm

    digitalandfilm Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 18, 2011
    You have 9,993 more garbage shots to go... :biggrin:

    “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." – Henri Cartier-Bresson
    • Like Like x 1
  9. digitalandfilm

    digitalandfilm Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 18, 2011
    Ohhh BTW- the first shot with the guy by the tree would work sooo much better if you got a closer, tighter shot that ISOLATES the two objects and affords detail. Same with the last shot of the people.

    Attached Files:

  10. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I went to see it twice and also was very impressed. One of the things that struck me was the difference in contrast/tonal scale between HCB's stuff and the B&W that seems to be preferred today. Most of his shots are much lower contrast and with a much more extended grey scale than I see in a lot of digital B&W, or even more recent film based B&W, even when there are some large deep black areas in HCB's images. What I see in more recent stuff is a more compressed tonal range with lots of deep black areas and much less gradation between there and the white of the highlights, a more "gutsy" sort of image style.

    I prefer the extended range I saw in the HCB pictures, and that got me digging out some of the B&W stuff I printed back in the '70s using Tri-X exposed at 200 ISO and developed for 20+ minutes in very dilute Agfa Rodinal. Tri-X with a lovely extended tonal range and much less grain than people associate with Tri-X. Much closer to what I get when I simply convert images to monochrome in Aperture without playing around in Silver Efex.

    I really enjoyed the exhibition, and also being reminded of the kind of photography I really liked back in the '70s when I was experimenting with B&W, and trying to use Ansel Adams' zone system with 35 mm film. Good to not only be reminded of those things, but to actually be inspired all over again by some of them.

    My only regret: I didn't buy a copy of the big exhibition catalogue book on my first visit. They'd sold out of it on my second visit and told me that it was now out of print. Had to satisfy myself with a copy of the small Aperture book of his work which has a lot of the photos I really liked but sadly does not include my favourite in the exhibition, the one of the church in Taos, New Mexico, which was placed in the selection of his favourites and which seemed in many ways totally out of character with the rest of the images in the exhibition.
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  11. Thanks, #5 was probably the furtherest removed from what I saw at the exhibition :smile:

    Maybe with a built-in altimeter that locks the camera when it is below eye level...nah, no one would ever buy it!

    Thanks. I'm not sure where the exhibition is moving onto next.

    True, I think print is still the ultimate viewing medium for an image, and it also prevents you from looking at 100% crops!

    Thanks, I would recommend anyone go along if they get the opportunity

    I haven't seen any of his books yet...I'm sure they'd be a great read.

    So, what number are you up to? :biggrin:

    I went on the second to last day, so I have nothing but a ticket stub...and the experience of course. I think you're right about the shift towards more contrast. I wonder if that is a film-vs-digital thing, a general shift in tastes, or whether viewing images on a backlit screen as opposed to a print doesn't favour a lower contrast image.
  12. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I think it's a shift in tastes, and I think it predates digital. I suspect that it was influenced to some degree by the characteristics of higher speed film which tended to be more contrasty than slower speed films, especially when those films were pushed in low light. Get a few people producing good results with a particular look and others copy the style. In this case I think some people started turning an aspect of the film they used in low light situations into something with artistic appeal and tastes started shifting.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. digitalandfilm

    digitalandfilm Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 18, 2011
    I have read that todays street shooters should enjoy the pioneers of street photography, but not look to idolize or mimic them. There has been lots of change since thier time- and technology is vastly improved.

    Best advice is to get out there as much as possible, start a routine and then stick to it.

    The rest just happens.
  14. digitalandfilm

    digitalandfilm Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 18, 2011
    Simple NIK Silver EFX Pro 2 trick:

    Click on "Film Type" and select "Tri-X"- and voila: old school grain.
  15. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 7, 2010
    Art can be funny. I disagree with this. The shot, either way, is not headed for a museum, but I think the crop is completely uninteresting, even though it does provide more detail. The wider shot with railing in the foreground catches the eye a bit. The angle of both railings is odd (especially the first), and for me it helps add something to the photo. It takes my eye back into the shot, past where the man is walking. It's interesting. Wish I could do a better job of describing how i react to it.
  16. avidone

    avidone Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 24, 2011
    Rome, Italy
    I agree... What is interesting in the original shot is the various angles ðrawing you in... Btw my iPad seems to be fussier than usual.. No idea why that Icelandic d popped up

    Sent from my iPad using Mu-43 App
  17. zpuskas

    zpuskas Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 25, 2011
    Santa Barbara, CA
    He's one of my favorites too! I like 4,5 and 6..they seem more like HCB to me. Thanks.
  18. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Yes, I can do that, and I have done it, and the results are nothing like how my old Tri-X prints look. As I said, I developed for over 20 minutes in dilute Agfa Rodinal after exposing at 200 ISO and got a very extended tonal range with much reduced grain compared to more standard Tri-X developments. I get much closer to the way my prints looked with a simple monochrome conversion in Aperture or the straight neutral option in Silver Efex and totally ignoring Silver Efex's grain options.

    Tri-X was an extremely flexible film stock to work with and you could produce an incredible range of results, both in tonality and grain, simply by varying exposure and development. You had probably nearly as much flexibility with Tri-X as you have with the whole range of options available within Silver Efex including the range of film emulation and grain options.

    And I don't think that Silver Efex's version of grain really looks the way that film grain actually looked.
  19. The technology may be different, but the principle of composition hasn't changed. Street photography needn't always be up-close-and-personal as it seems to increasingly be in the modern era. Even the equipment that a pioneer like HCB had access to would have allowed him to get in close, but his work suggests that he mostly chose not to. The modern photographer is free to make the same choice.
  20. digitalandfilm

    digitalandfilm Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 18, 2011
    Whatever choice you make, just get out there and SHOOT and then display your work... preferably on 500px (less posers there) and see how they "score" and how many (ratio) of "favorites" -v- total amout posted.

    You might change your mind, or think like a lemming. Choice.
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