Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Mind’s Eye

This is  a book of which I have been aware for some time but have not actually read before now.  What an odd book it is!  It is subtitled “Writings on Photography and Photographers” but does not in fact contain much on either.  Part three deals with ‘photographers’ but not all of the subjects were photographers and the portraits, such as they are , are little more than aphoristic.

Part two is not really about photography at all but contains some rather pedestrian memoir on places where HCB worked.

It is the first part that is actually about HCB’s attitude and approach to photography and this is the most interesting part of this otherwise slight volume.  Certainly here is where I found the ‘pearls of wisdom’ that I was hoping for.  Here are a few quotations that chime with my own views on photography:

“Our task is to perceive reality, almost simultaneously recording it in the sketchbook which is our camera.  We must neither try to manipulate reality while we are shooting, nor manipulate the results in a darkroom. These tricks are patently discernible to those who have eyes to see.” (Page 27.)

“Composition must be one of our constant preoccupations, but at the moment of shooting it can stem only from our intuition, for we are out to capture the figurative moment, and all the interrelationships involved are on the move.” (Page 34.)

“…it very rarely happens that a photograph which was feebly composed can be saved by reconstruction of its composition under the darkroom’s enlarger;…” (Page 34.)

“Technique is important only insofar as you must master it in order to communicate what you see.  Your own personal technique has to be created and adapted solely in order to make your vision effective on film.” (Page 38.)

“…people think far too much about techniques and not enough about seeing.” (Page 38.)

Cartier-Bresson, H, (1999).  The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers. New York: Aperture.

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