Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, Courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
Curated by William A. Ewing the international exhibition Cartier Bresson: A Question of Colour has opened the doors to the public today at Somerset House, where it will be hosted until the 27 Jaunary 2013. It features ten Henri-Cartier Bresson photographs never exhibited before in the UK, accompanied by 75 works by 15 contemporary street photographers from all over the world.
Developed in five main galleries, the exhibition is not organised chronologically, but it aims to illustrate how “the decisive moment” of colours broke in black and white photography.
So how does Cartier-Bresson fit? He, well known for disparaging towards colour photography, he who tried to avoid the change sticking with his black and white contrasts?
The Cartier-Bresson photographs featured in this exhibition are selected from work he accomplished in the United States from 1946 o 1947 (with one exception in 1960) when the photographer opened his solo show at MoMa in New York.
“The reasons for this choice are simple” said curator William Ewing, “these pictures are little known outside France, and expand our understanding of its oeuvre. Moreover they are urban, and the city is essential for all the additional colour photographers featured here.”
Is it all about the city then? Not really.
What in this exhibition is really shown is the importance of the instant. Cartier-Bresson wrote in his book The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers: “To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.”
The decisive moment of colours became a fundamental additional factor in how to seize something that happens, and capture it in the very moment that it takes place. Something that Cartier-Bresson always did in his life as a photographer. This exhibition features photographers covering a wide range of subjects, of places, of times in history. But what link them all is that they don’t crop the image, they don’t insert additional elements using photoshop. They all capture the moment wherever they see, with their professional-sensitive eye, content and form in a perfect balance.
“To take photographs means to recognize – simultaneously and within a fraction of a second – both the fact itself and the rigorous organisation of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one’s head, one’s eye and one’s heart on the same axis.” Henri Cartier-Bresson