Street Photography and myself through the French Humanist Photographers

May 22nd, 2012

Pont des Arts, Paris (Jerome Lorieau)
Pont des Arts, Paris – 2011

It was August 2004 when the death of the famous French photographer Henri Cartier Bresson was announced on the French news. At the time I did not really take pictures seriously. I just had a hybrid digital camera bought six months before. This dramatic moment made me have a new look at his work. It changed the way I took photographs for ever. I was stunned by his way of creating perfect compositions. His eye had an ability to bring together lines in perfect geometry while playing with human shapes or simply capturing the decisive moment. There was one image in particular that fascinated me: an image that he took in Paris at The Palais Royal Gardens in 1959. In my view, the photograph is far beyond perfection. The alignment between the lines of the trees monument is perfect and the man walking was captured at the right place at the right moment, fitting amazingly the only gap for a human shape in the frame. The well anticipated moment was cleverly framed in a fantastic composition. The photograph had a great influence on me and still has today. I could spend hours and hours looking at it with the same fascination.
I have spent a lot of time studying the composition of Henri Cartier Bresson’s photographs. Like a lot of street photographers, I am also attracted to his way of capturing the decisive moment. It is pure joy. However, Henri Cartier Bresson is not the only photographer whose work I admire. There are many others; mostly humanist French photographers, like Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis and Edouard Boubat. They had a lot of poetry, charm and romance about the way they captured French life between the 40′s and the end of the 60′s. They told the stories of our streets, stories of the French people, stories of the Parisians, but overall, stories that history books don’t cover. It was all about documenting the life of ordinary people, a way of life that has now disappeared but that we are able to see thanks to their photo legacies. If Henri Cartier Bresson helped me to understand composition and capturing the moment, the French Humanist photographers make me understand that capturing our time, our streets, the people and life are very important in terms of documenting a period of time. Photography is able to stop time and capture in images our history. It is fascinating.

Soon on my blog “Street Photography, wandering & documenting the time”

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