Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Watch the Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary ‘L’amour de court’ (‘Just plain love’, 2001) available in five parts on YouTube:


Write a personal response to the film in the contextual section of your learning log, taking care to reference properly any quotations you use (300–500 words).”

As I am not that familiar with Henri Cartier-Bresson, so in addition to watching the film, I also spent some time reading about his life and work, which helped me further understand the interview he gave. His images were beautifully composed and its easy to see how his style has had such a large influence.

He comes across as a chap who loved life and felt a connection with humanity as a whole. (Lets gloss over his fondness of brothels, which wasn’t quite as endearing – different era) This connection with humankind shows in his pictures, and I disagree with Gaby Wood’s comment that his work is “numbly impersonal”. They are elegant, they are beautifully composed and certainly artistic, but there is emotion contained within them. I take the point that they differ from a modern style of photography, they are not raw and edgy,  the ‘spontaneity’ is carefully considered at times. However I simply feel he had an excellent eye and fully connected with the world around him.

Surely anything but impersonal?


Henri-Bresson,  Paris 1955

I wonder if the concept of “The Decisive Moment” has been mythologised a little? Although his images capture a perfectly timed moment, he also used his excellent eye to spot the potential through his view finder, then shot several pictures in order to capture exactly the right composition. Its only common sense that he should have a selection of images to choose from. However, this was one of the first from his contact sheet!



Henri-Bresson, Seville 1933

It really intrigues me that he eventually abandoned photography to return to his first love, drawing. I believe its a strange irony that some people who are blessed with a certain talent do not like to fit the categories we want to impose upon them. However it seems unusual to simply give up the very thing you are famous for – for most talented people they simply cannot give up the thing they love, it drives them, defines them – surely they would experience a profound sense of loss to simply stop? But I can only guess that for Cartier-Bresson, he loved composition and that only the medium changed, not his creativity.






10 Things Henri Cartier-Bresson Can Teach You About Street Photography


Project 2 – Lens work

“Do your own research into some of the photographers mentioned in this project.

Look back at your personal archive of photography and try to find a photograph that could be used to illustrate one of the aesthetic codes discussed in Project 2. Whether or not you had a similar idea when you took the photograph isn’t important; find a photo with a depth of field that ‘fits’ the code you’ve selected. The ability of photographs to adapt to a range of usages is something we’ll return to later in the course.

Add the shot to your learning log and include a short caption describing how you’ve re-imagined your photograph.”

Ansel Adams (1902–84) and the F64 group

Landscape photographer and conservationist. The f/64 group referred to an aperture setting which produced a sharp image across distance. This style of photography is associated with fine art and does certainly remind me of grand oil paintings. Its beautiful, dramatic and demonstrates a love of nature. During wartime Adams was criticised for taking pretty pictures of irrelevant subjects. A little harsh!


Fay Godwin – Our Forbidden Land (1990)

This is a more modern take on landscape photography. Godwin has deliberately chosen to use black and white images, which I think greatly influences are response to them. I would argue that the associations we might place on monochrome include words such as “serious”, “dramatic”, “thoughtful”, “moody”, “textural” and sometimes”bleak”. Godwin has also been linked to conservation, in reference to a dialogue about public access to the countryside.


Gianluca Cosci – Panem et Circenses

Hmm I seem to be rather prone to accidentally mimicking this style at the moment with my rather hit and miss focusing! Cosci’s camera technique makes for really intriguing viewpoints, I really like the mood of these shots. They seem to evoke an oddly secretive world which is slightly discordant.


Mona Kuhn – Evidence 

Khun also uses a shallow depth of field to draw us in to the subject. Some images in this book make use of glass and reflective surfaces. The theme of this work is broadly speaking, we are all naked beneath er….our clothes. They are generally flattering images, so I would imagine if she asked you to pose, you’d be happy to do so. This work has been described as deliberately not exploitative or sexy, simply showing the naturalness of the human form. However, I wonder if some images are implying voyeurism – we are sometimes peeking through glass, doorways and so on. I don’t completely get it, but its difficult to say something new about naked humans!


Kim Kirkpatrick 

Kirkpatrick is a landscape photographer perhaps slightly similar in style to Cosci. The subject matter often includes landscape photos that feature construction sites and industrial areas around Washington D.C.  He is quoted as saying “I take pictures where nature and man meet, where one is taking over the other”‘. His style sometimes includes a technique known as bokeh – which is how light displays in an unfocused area of a photograph. I find these images really effective. The hard lines and industrial materials contrast against the soft de-focused areas beautifully.


Guy Bourdin (1928–91)

A painter and fashion photographer. Many of his images were quite subversive, challenging ideas about fashion photography as a genre. He was a protégé of Man Ray. and consequently inspired by early surrealist ideas. According to the Louise Alexander Gallery, Bourdin was “famed for his suggestive narratives” which I think you can clearly see from these images below!


We were asked to pick an image of our own that fits one of the aesthetic codes discussed. I’ve chosen this image, as it uses a very  shallow depth of field as in Mona Kuhn’s work. However,  you could argue its a different take on ‘up close and personal’ – as the lens is simply hovering very close to a human being and their personal space.

2016-03-18 15.13.48


Research point – Response to Thomas Ruff’s work

“…’Jpeg’ by Thomas Ruff…Read the reviews by Campany and Colberg and, if you haven’t already done so, use them to begin the contextual section of your learning log. Try to pick out the key points made by each writer. Write about 300 words.


ruff_01_groot ThomasRuff1

Each reviewer is highly complimentary of the beauty of Thomas Ruff’s book, however they part company when discussing the meaning (and value) of the images. David Campany sees the images as challenging and intellectually stimulating, while Joerg Colberg does not!

Campany’s views are interesting. He sees the work as impersonal and unemotional, as we are distanced a little from the subject matter. He goes on to say “Indeed what is particular about Ruff’s work is its potent ability to solicit individual and global responses that cannot be entirely reconciled”. I think he is pondering on the large scale shocking subject matter, such as nine eleven, with the contradiction of our own personal emotional response. These images seem unemotional as they are seen through the filter of the pixel – a cold computer generated image. He then discusses the topic of found imagery, and how we relate to it, mentioning Dada, Surrealism and Cubism. There are some similarities to Picasso here – he and others experimented with multiple view points within a single image. (I’m not sure pixellated imagery takes things quite so far, but you can see a connection.) He points out that using archive material has a long history, and although “the pixel has replaced the grain of photographic film.” Company sees drama and tension in the interplay between the chaotic and dramatic subject matter the ‘abstract’ nature of the pixels.

Colberg disagrees, and I can’t help sympathising with his rather more skeptical views! He begins by saying he’s not going to debate whether this book can really be called photography, because they are mostly found images. As I’m entirely new to this subject, I haven’t thought about what might be defined as photography, but its interesting that some photographers like to work with found imagery. He then gives a brief explanation about the inspiration behind the book, and how he responded to it most in print (rather than large images in a gallery). Then he proceeds to the main point of his argument, which is really “so what?”. He feels they are simply beautiful images, making the rather obvious point that poor quality computer images are pixellated.

I can see both points of view really…I think most of us read modern imagery as almost more shocking and dramatic because the image quality is poor. It implies that something happened which is so awful that there was no time to set up an artistic, calm scene. It can seem elusive – like its been rescued from a distant place. A bit like a very important letter or package thats been beaten up in the post and survived fire or flood to reach you. On the other hand, if you re-use shocking imagery it will imply intellectual depth, but we should question if there really is any! Could an artist just be exploiting awful shocking events as a short cut to telling us they are really serious and heavy weight without really saying anything profound? Well, Colberg seems to think so, and I kind of agree. (Sorry!)