Henri Cartier-Bresson On The Decisive Moment

Here’s a fascinating video with Henri Cartier-Bresson that will give you insight into his work and hopefully inspire yours.

Although many consider Cartier-Bresson to be the father of modern photojournalism he saw himself as a Surrealist photographer. Encouraged by Robert Capa to call himself a photojournalist Cartier-Bresson adopted the label so that he would be taken seriously. Personally, he found documentary photography boring and didn’t consider himself much of a journalist.

Henri Cariter-Bresson, Madrid, 1933 © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

Henri Cariter-Bresson, Madrid, 1933
© Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos


Cartier-Bresson began his art career as a painter and viewed photography as a means of drawing. The photograph was, “an immediate sketch done with intuition”. Fascinated by the fluidity of time and capturing “The Decisive Moment” Cartier-Bresson found visual pleasure in the rhythm of compositions created by fusing intuitive moments within the ordered structures of geometry.

His photographs provide sensuous and intellectual pleasure as well as a “recognition of an order in front of you.” “The difference between a good picture and a mediocre picture is a question of millimeters. It’s small, small difference, but it’s essential.” It’s fractions of a second and awareness. Cartier-Bresson wasn’t interested in facts, he interested in the evocation of the image. “Like a Checkov story, it’s a quick thing and there’s a whole world in it.”

“The secret to getting great pictures; “ You have to milk the cow quite a lot to get plenty of milk to make a little cheese”.

Here are some great books featuring the photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson.


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