Henri Cartier-Bresson

The artist of the Week is Henri Cartier-Bresson.

About Henri Cartier-Bresson – Henri Cartier-Bresson (August 22, 1908 – August 3, 2004) was a French photographer considered to be the father of modern photojournalism. He was an early adopter of 35 mm format, and the master of candid photography. He helped develop the “street photography” or “real life reportage” style that has influenced generations of photographers who followed. (Wikipedia)

Henri’s work is mostly about capturing life as it happens. Capturing moments that he calls “The Decisive Moment” where bits of life are perfectly laid out in a composition at the right time, just before it changes and the moment is gone.

For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to “give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.

To take a photograph is to hold one’s breath when all faculties converge in a face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.

To take a photograph means to recognize – simultaneously and within a fraction of a second– both the fact itself and the rigorous organisation of visually perceived forms that give it meaning.

It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis. – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Critique the Artwork of the Day

What elements and principles are used? Composition Rules? Are there shapes and forms? What is the subject? What does it communicate and HOW? Break it down into Elements, Principles and Composition.


Line, Shape, Value, Form, Texture, Color, Space


Balance, Emphasis, Rhythm/Repetition/Pattern, Scale/Proportion, Unity/Variety, Contrast, Movement


Fill the Frame, Rule of Thirds, Triangle, Frame in a Frame, Leading Lines, Circle, Rhythm, Positive/Negative Space

Using your critique worksheet, please critique each photo below. Click on the tabs to view the photo for each critique:

Seville, Spain Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908–2004)

Seville, Spain
Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908–2004)

Compare and contrast these two photos. What contrasts do you see? How does it change the mood?


Draw the shapes and lines in this composition on your critique sheet. Where does your eye go? Stop? Why? What is the geometry in this image?

1959 ITALY. Rome. Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908–2004)

1959 ITALY. Rome.
Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908–2004)

Discuss the composition? What is the “decisive moment” in these photos?

Behind the Gare St. Lazare Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908–2004)

Behind the Gare St. Lazare
Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908–2004)


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