Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why I like Henri Cartier-Bresson more than I do Ansel Adams

madrid cartier-bresson

A lot of photographers make a big deal out of Ansel Adams, the great American landscape photographer.

Adams was a pioneering genius in the darkroom, coaxing details out of black-and-white negatives to create stunning scenes of nature, especially in the West and California.

While I appreciate the beauty and technique in Adams’s work, my all-time favorite photographer is Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the founding members of the Magnum photo agency.


Because Cartier-Bresson photographed people and I find people infinitely more interesting to look at than scenery.

This photo – shot in Madrid, Spain in 1933 – is probably my favorite Cartier-Bresson image. It’s amazingly rich in detail and layers from the kids in the foreground, some of whom are looking at the photographer, to the cartoonish fat guy with hat who reminds me of an R. Crumb character, to the incredible constellation of seemingly random windows in the building that forms the background.

Cartier-Bresson strove to capture what he called “the decisive moment.” He also never cropped his photos in the darkroom, preferring to frame them the way he wanted them with his viewfinder.

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