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Some Old French Dude

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Henri Cartier-Bresson, the 94 year-old “godfather of photojournalism” is honored with a major retrospective at the National Library and the opening of his foundation in Paris:

    Among the memorable images are his portraits of the painter Henri Matisse in his studio and snatched street scenes from as far afield as Indonesia, Mexico and the United States — many of which have since become defining portraits of their era.

    “In the category of photojournalist, there is no equivalent. There is no other photographer in the world capable of doing what is on show here,” said Robert Delpire, director of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson and curator of the show.

    A founding member of the Magnum picture agency in 1947, Cartier-Bresson become the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union in 1954. He documented the death of Mahatma Gandhi in India and the Communist revolution in China.

    “To take photographs…is putting one’s head, one’s eye and one’s heart on the same axis. It’s a way of life,” he once said.

    Cartier-Bresson’s serendipitous approach was captured in the 1952 book “The Decisive Moment” — a title which has since come to encapsulate his knack for snapping fleeting instants.

    “He is so fast. The Leica appears out of nowhere and whoosh, it disappears again. It’s really quite surprising and it is due in part to his naturally nervous disposition,” Delpire said.

    “It is no accident at all, he just has it in his eye, in a miraculous way. That’s part of his genius, that whatever he does, it is organized in a way that you suspect he set it up, but he has never set up a single picture in his life,” he added.

    ….Delpire, a lifelong friend of the photographer, said Cartier-Bresson was similarly reluctant to set up his eponymous foundation, which opens its doors this week.

    He was finally won over by the idea that it would act as an incubator for young talent rather than a mausoleum for his work. Cartier-Bresson set aside his own camera in 1974 and has since concentrated on drawing, another lifelong passion.

    “When he turned 70, he said he could no longer be what he called a street photographer. He had to settle down and the best way to do that was to draw,” said Delpire. [Reuters]

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