Henri Cartier-Bresson and the Art of Street Photography

“The photograph itself doesn't interest me. I want only to capture a minute part of reality.” — Henri Cartier-Bresson

When photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson was employed to cover the coronation of King George VI for the French publication Regards, he took no photographs of the King. Instead, he filled frame after frame with the people lining the streets in celebration, craning to catch a glimpse of their new monarch. For Cartier-Bresson, beauty blossomed in the gritty details of ordinary life on the streets — and the art lay in immortalising it in photographs.

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Chase the Moment

“The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.” — Henri Cartier-Bresson

But capturing the streets is not a case of the photographer shaping life to fit it into the frame. As Cartier-Bresson explained to the Washington Post, ‘Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.’ The camera is merely the witness to an organic moment serendipitously formed by a series of random events. The photographer’s skill lies not in meticulous composition or artistic post-production, but in the ability to feel the moment — to respond to the energy coursing through the streets and capture it authentically. And to do that, the photographer must be invisible.

Photos by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Lose Yourself in the Rhythm of the Streets

“It is the photo that takes you. One must not take photos.” — Henri Cartier-Bresson

Cartier-Bresson took almost all of his photographs on a compact Leica camera loaded with fast black and white film. His lens of choice was a classic 50mm — enough to give a feel of the environment without detracting from the subject. He used black tape to cover the camera's chrome body, allowing him to blend into the crowd and capture people in all their natural beauty, blissfully unaware of the camera. For him, the purpose of photography was to immortalise the extraordinary moments that make up the everyday experience of being human.

Photos by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Catch the World Off-Guard

“I suddenly understood that a photograph could fix eternity in an instant.” — Henri Cartier-Bresson

At Lomography, we’re big believers in Cartier-Bresson’s philosophy. We love losing ourselves in the rhythm of the streets, chasing the moment and impulsively filling the frame with the stunning details that make this little planet incredible. Be sneaky — capture the world off-guard and see what you discover. Beautiful things slip by every day under the guise of being ordinary. Make sure you see them for what they really are — extraordinary.

written by Martha Reed on 2018-01-31 #culture #news #places


  1. tomczykd
    tomczykd ·

    Henri Cartier-Bresson is an amazing photographer for me, who was able to capture the simplicity of life and its beauty of our everyday life! I apologize for marketing, but you can see my presentation with his photographs here: https://www.lomography.es/homes/tomczykd/movies/3586?order=…

  2. marthareed
    marthareed ·

    We think he's incredible, too! What a fantastic selection of images in your video, @tomczykd. Thank you for sharing!

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