Henri Cartier-Bresson Exhibition, Paris

When in Paris, I also had the opportunity to visit the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition at the Centre Pompidou. To me this exhibition was very interesting as in a previous module I had studied some of Cartier-Bresson’s work. In this exhibition, Cartier-Bresson captures a wide range of historical events and other topics , in black and white photography, including the jazz age of the 1920s, colonial Africa, the Spanish civil war, developing human rights, capitalist expansion, two world wars, Ghandi’s funeral, decolonisation, Mao, the first man in space, America booming, student protests and the collapse of the Soviet bloc. With more than 350 shots on display, this exhibition looks at a wide range of Cartier-Bresson’s work, as well as showing the diversity with his different bodies of work. To me this was great to see all different aspects of Cartier-Bresson’s work, as it gave me a great sense of his true scale and ability. By having such a wide range of work, it allowed the viewer to think on different levels about his work, and to make links within different bodies of work, as well as showing his huge portfolio and diversity that his work is. Paris, Centre Pompidou - Exposition Henri Cartier-Bresson - 2014 Even though there was such a huge range of work in the exhibition, I feel that Pompidou has exhibited the work well, having different walls and sections dedicated to different bodies of work, making it easier for the viewer to decipher which photographs belong together. The exhibition also combines photographs with books and also moving images to give the viewer a greater understanding on the work being displayed. Text was combined with images to give context and allow further understanding on different bodies of work, meaning that the viewing experience and reading of the images was much better for the viewer.

From looking around the exhibition, one body of work that stood out to me was, ‘The Face of Poverty‘; this work made me think back to my own work that I did in a previous module, based on homelessness. In Cartier-Bresson’s work he looked at homelessness by taking photographs of homeless people; whereas in comparison to my own work, I photographed the less obvious side of homelessness, by looking at the idea of what people use as shelter and places for survival. This work and my own made me think about the different ways one subject can be portrayed, this doesn’t only mean in homelessness photography but many other subjects; photography is a wide field and offers many different ways to express and communicate a subject to the viewer. In general one photographic brief can be answered by one person in one way, but then someone else would come up with a completely different concept. I accept that there will always be overlaps in photography of especially well know topics; however I feel as a photographer you should strive to be different and offer a different view or way of portraying a certain topic, making you stand out from the rest.

This leads on to the idea of alternative processes and the work I am doing in this current module; the photographers I am studying are trying to stand out and be different by using an alternative process to show and communicate an idea to their audience. I feel that using alternative processes is a great way to be a bit different and offers photographers a more expressive and unique way to their work.

When looking around the exhibition I found some links to my work I am doing currently on human presence;  Florence, Piazza della Signoria, 1933 linked to and made me think about my own idea of locations without people. This photograph shows empty tables and chairs; these would have been sat on by people, each person having their own way of life, to me these chairs represent all those people and their lifestyle, each chair would have ‘its own story’ to do with who sat on them and the stories that go with each person. I like how empty spaces can show the idea of human presence by representing people and their lifestyle; in my own work I would like to explore this idea further by capturing empty spaces to represent man’s ‘print on the land’ and all the people who visit that place or own it, and their lifestyle. PAR39550

Florence, Piazza della Signoria, 1933 by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Another photograph that I was interested in was Hyères, France 1932; this photograph shows the movement of a passing bike. The angle that Cartier-Bresson has taken this from is interesting as it allows the viewer to see the surroundings as well as the path of the cyclist. This links to my theme of human presence and my idea of showing peoples movements to represent their ‘paths’ in life; even though this photograph has a human present in it, I can still take influence from it, looking at the angle of the camera to show the surroundings and direction the cyclist is taking, you can also see where they have been and where they are heading for. In my work, like Cartier-Bresson, I plan to use long exposures to show the movement and ‘paths’ of people, especially moving cars; I want to use pinhole photography to show the light trails from car lights, these trails will then represent the paths and flow of humans in a given location.
Hyères, France 1932 by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Overall I really loved this exhibition, and would recommend it to anyone who got the opportunity to visit it; there is a great range of work looking at many different subjects and how the exhibition has been displayed and set up helps the reading and understanding of the work.

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