Saturday, 12 November 2011

Saturday Photo: Thinking of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Geometry

Perhaps my favourite photographer is Henri Cartier-Bresson. On a trip to France a few years ago we spent two afternoons in a restrospective exhibition of his work at the Biblithèque nationale. It was literally an eye-opener, as not only were great prints of his photos on display, so were notebooks and some of his contact sheets.

Being the kind of picture snapper who always took lots of exposures even before digital photography, I was amazed to see how few times he clicked the shutter. On a roll of 36 shots, he would have no less than three or four subjects. Each shot would be a distinct moment, and the amazing thing was that each was exactly the right one. His famous shot of a man jumping across a puddle, for example, was not one of a half dozen, if I remember correctly. He didn't warm up with snaps of other people crossing the square or fuss with settings to get the right exposure. He simply knew what aperature and speed to use and waited until the man in question was ready to take flight.

Cartier Bresson also was passionate about geometry, saying that underlying all photography was structure and the geometric relation of a photo's elements. That's evident in the jumping man shot, and it is also an idea that I'd like to use more often in my own pictures. The one at top is of a trestle near Kamloops, BC. where I think the geometry works. But I must admit that it is only one of about 10 shots I took during half an hour and I had the aid of automatic exposure meters.

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