…and so, after talking about my favourite style, I just want to talk about some of my favourite photographers and I just want be a brave enough to compare my shots to theirs. And of course, mine will be mixed with the others taken from the net, you just have to spot them…
Henri Cartier-Bresson was born on August 22, 1908 in Chanteloup, France. A pioneer in photojournalism, Cartier-Bresson wandered around the world with his camera, becoming totally immersed in his current environment. Considered one of the major artists of the 20th century, he covered many of the world biggest events from the Spanish Civil War to the French uprisings in 1968.
In 1931 he travelled to Africa where he discovered a new interest: photography. He experimented with a simple Brownie he’d received as a gift, taking pictures of the new world around him.
Upon returning to France later that year, Cartier-Bresson purchased his first 35mm Leica, a camera whose simple style and stunning results would help define the photographer’s work.
For the rest of his life, in fact, Cartier-Bresson’s approach to photography would remain much the same. He made clear his disdain for the augmented image, one that had been enhanced by artificial light, dark room effects, even cropping. The naturalist in Cartier-Bresson believed that all edits should be done when the image was made. His equipment load was often light: a 50mm lens and if he needed it, a longer 90mm lens.
Cartier-Bresson’s rise as a photographer proved rapid. By the mid 1930s he’d shown his work in major exhibits in Mexico, New York, and Madrid. His images revealed the early raw possibilities of street photography and photojournalism in general.
During an exhibit of his prints in New York in 1935 Cartier-Bresson befriended another photographer, Paul Strand
Bresson life took a dramatic turn in 1940 following the German invasion of France. Cartier-Bresson joined the army but was soon captured by German forces and forced into prison-of-war camp for the next three years.
In 1943, after two failed attempts, Cartier-Bresson escaped for good and immediately returned to his photography and film work. He created a photo department for the resistance and following the end of the war, was commissioned by the United States to direct a documentary about the return of French prisoners.
Not long after the war, Cartier-Bresson travelled east, spending considerable time in India, where he met and photographed Mahatma Gandhi shortly before his assassination in 1948. Cartier-Bresson’s subsequent work to document Gandhi’s death and its immediate impact on the country became one of Life Magazine’s most prized photo essays.
His work to solidify photojournalism as legitimate news and art form went beyond what he did behind the camera. In 1947 he teamed up Robert Capa, George Rodger, David ‘Chim’ Seymour, and William Vandivert, and founded Magnum Photos, one of the world’s premier photo agency.
A wanderlust at heart, Cartier-Bresson’s interest in the world led him on a three-year odyssey through Asia. When the photographer returned to France in 1952 he published his first book, The Decisive Moment, a rich collection of his work spanning two decades.
More importantly, perhaps, the book cemented Cartier-Bresson as a photographer with a heart. Over the course of his long career he hauled his Leica around the world to document and show triumph and tragedy in all its forms. He was there for the Spanish Civil War and the Chinese revolution. He documented George VI’s coronation and told the story of Khrushchev’s Russia. His subjects ranged from Che Guevara to Marilyn Monroe, while his magazine clients ran the gamut, including not just Life, but Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and many others.
In 2003, Cartier-Bresson, along with his wife and daughter, took an important step in securing his legacy as an artist with the creation of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris in an effort to preserve his work. His later years would also see him awarded numerous awards and honorary doctorates for his work.
Just a few weeks shy of his 96th birthday, Henri Cartier-Bresson passed away at his home in Provence on August 3, 2004
Cartier-Bresson photographed with a small, light-weight Leica camera, which allowed him to move quickly and take pictures without being obtrusive. He mostly shot with a standard 50 millimeter lens, so that he needed to move in close to his subjects in order to fill the frame. This lens forced him to get involved with his subjects, much more than if he were shooting from a distance, with a longer lens. The 50 millimeter lens continues to be popular among photojournalists and street photographers.
Cartier-Bresson shot with black and white film, which gave his pictures an abstract quality, reducing them to stark compositions. In today’s digital world, film is not often used, but it has a grainy, imperfect feel that is difficult to achieve in any other medium.
Cartier-Bresson believed it was important for a photographer to be in sync with his surroundings, to sense the rhythm of a scene and to feel connected to his subject matter. He quietly and surreptitiously set himself in the middle of the action, a technique that enabled him to capture events in a way that other photographers had not. One of his most famous photographs is of Ghandi, in an eerily relaxed moment, just 15 minutes before he was assassinated.
While Cartier-Bresson’s images can appear almost casual, he believed that the geometry of a composition was critical. He shot very quickly, but at the same time his images were always carefully composed.
Photographers today continue to learn from Cartier-Bresson and apply his technique to their photographs. Here are a few suggestions for incorporating Cartier-Bresson’s approach into your own photography.
Carry a small camera with you at all times, so that you are always ready to capture a spontaneous moment.
Put yourself in situations where you feel an emotional connection to the scene. The more connected you are, the more powerful your pictures will be.
Shoot images every day. This may seem obvious, but the more you shoot, the better you will get at sensing the perfect moment to click the shutter.
Shoot black and white film, or set your digital camera to the black and white setting.
Play around with angles and composition in your photographs. Cartier-Bresson’s images were often off-center, shot from unexpected angles.
WHAT TO SEEK
- Focus on geometry: Don’t only see the world as it is, look for shapes and geometry that occur naturally as well
- Be patient: when you are out shooting and you see fascinating scenes, wait for the right person to walk by to complete your image.
3: Travel: explore different countries and cultures, and it will help inspire your photography and open your eyes.
- Stick to one lens: by being faithful to that lens for decades, the camera truly became “an extension of his eye
5: Take photos of children: children are great subjects to shoot when it comes to street photography.
- Be unobtrusive: if you see a scene you want to capture, quickly bring your camera up to your eye and move on before anybody can notice you.
- See the world like a painter: In order to become a better street photographer, study the work of painters. See how they utilize framing, composition, people, and scenes.
8. Don’t crop: If you crop too often, you become lazy with your framing when you are actually shooting.
9. Don’t worry about processing: If you shoot a bad photo, no amount of “photoshopping” can make it any better.
10. Always strive for more: if you have a great portfolio of images, strive to get even better images. Don’t become satisfied and complacent.
Garry Winogrand (14 January 1928, New York City – 19 March 1984, Tijuana, Mexico) was a street photographer known for his portrayal of the United States in the mid-20th century; At age 20, Winogrand began his studies at the City College of New York where he focused on realistic portraiture. However, finding himself more interested in real life than artistic renderings of the subject, Winogrand decided to pursue photojournalism at Columbia University. It was at Columbia that Winogrand was able to truly flourish. He took to the streets of New York almost daily where he was able to capture human life at its most rare and vulnerable states. He was in-arguably one of the most prolific street photographers of his time (he shot over 5 million photographs in his career) and one of the most passionate.
The tool that Winogrand used to capture this intimate America was a 35mm Leica camera with a pre-focused wide angle lens. His style is characterized by his rapid-fire capture technique where he would take many pictures within a short amount of time. It is this style that gave his work a deep sense of frantic energy and is what makes Winogrand unique.
Unfortunately, Winogrand’s life was cut short when in 1984, at the age of 56, he died of gall bladder cancer. At the time of his unfortunate early-death he left behind 2,500 rolls of undeveloped film, 6,500 rolls of developed but not proofed exposures (not made into contact sheets), and contact sheets made from about 3,000 rolls. In addition to that, the Garry Winogrand Archive at the Center for Creative Photography has over 20,000 fine and work prints, 20,000 contact sheets, 100,000 negatives and 30,500 35mm colour slides as well as a small group of Polaroid prints and several amateur motion picture films.
This life, while short, was heavily influential to the world of photography and society as a whole. Thanks to Garry Winogrand’s constant capturing of his surroundings, many rolls of film have been found undeveloped within his collection. Some of these photos, along with his most notable ones, continue to travel the globe and influence generations to come.
Winogrand would spend hours on the street every day, shooting a dozen rolls of black and white film – 400 or 500 images, day after day. Thirty years after his death, only now are we seeing anything approaching an overarching view of his material. Trying to emulate Winogrand’s punishing work ethic would be madness. But within his rich archive there is a wealth of wisdom for photographers to learn from.
1. Shoot, and shoot again: Winogrand’s formidable archive didn’t come from luck but from sheer hard graft and left behind an archive that almost defies comprehension. Expecting to be able to shoot as much as he did in order to approach photography with such diligence might be a form of madness. But a little of Winogrand’s dedication would be a good thing.
2. Be patient: the few minutes it takes to walk around something, the wait for other elements to emerge, or the light to change, can turn something drab into a much more dynamic and interesting photograph.
3. Get close: Winogrand’s work has an urgency and energy that comes from being close – really close. The wide-angle lenses that he shot with add an artificial distance that belies his proximity to his subjects. Winogrand’s postcards of post-war America were shot at close range, sometimes even at arm’s length.
4. Think in black and white: shooting black and white forces you to consider what is in the frame you’re shooting, rather than being sidetracked by colours. It’s also much better for shooting on overcast days, when the light is flat and colours become muted.
5. Don’t be afraid to photograph strangers: get close, and be confident. And if you’re shooting people up close, make eye contact, and smile. Capture life up close and personal, and be open and honest about it.
To finish, I’d like to talk about another photographer that despite not being as iconic as the previous two, has certainly managed to inspire me and probably many others: Richard Heersmink
Richard Heersmink is a Sydney-based semi-pro photographer who grew up in The Netherlands. Compared to names such as Bresson or Winogrand, Heersmink is completely unknown. The contents of his photographs are typically related to human culture in one of its many facets such as architecture, street life, technological objects, or works of art.
One of the many things he likes about photography is that it invites you to look at the world differently, to explore relations between elements in your perceptual field and to explore details of things you would have otherwise never seen. Like philosophy, photographic exploration changes how one sees the world.
He recently won the first prize in a street photography contest with this shot:
This photo is taken in Sydney in the late afternoon when the sun is low and casts long shadows on the world. It’s Saturday afternoon and people have just finished shopping or site-seeing and are heading to a bar or pub to have a drink or some food.
Richards subjects are street photography, city scapes, artefacts, design and architecture, landscapes and travel. Here are some of his best street shots:
I find Heersmink work very inspiring; it is good to see that a semi-professional (just like me…) can come up with images as attractive as the work of iconic photographer such as Bresson or Winogram. I will pursue the same results that Heersmink achieves hoping to be an inspiration for other photographers.
AND TO FINISH: three shots of mine edited to a 40-50’s style to close my assignment