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Henri Cartier-Bresson: PARIS

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts presents an exhibition of photographic works by world renowned photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. Henri Cartier-Bresson: PARIS features 83 magnificent images captured between 1929 and 1985, and provides an extraordinary insight into the streets of the city and the lives of its people. Opening concurrently with Alberto Giacometti: A Line through Time on the 23 April 2016 the two exhibitions complement one another and explore the rich artistic legacy of the age, bringing together two of the greatest artists of the century. Indeed Cartier-Bresson acknowledged that Giacometti was his favourite artist and created one of his most iconic portraits capturing Giacometti alone on a rain-drenched Paris street.

Known predominantly as a photographer of the street, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s images capture the dynamism of contemporary life and this exhibition explores one of his most enduring subjects – Paris. Exquisite black and white images record the people, places and activity of the city finding the unusual, the humorous, the poignant and the often marvellous in the ordinary and everyday.

For Cartier-Bresson, capturing and recording moments of real life was central to his work. From the butchers hauling carcasses in the market of Les Halles, to the school children looking from the top of Notre-Dame cathedral, he found beauty in mundane subjects. Documenting the politically turbulent times in which he lived, from the Rue St-Honoré in the year of the French liberation, to a wall of faces at the funeral of the victims of the 1962 Charonne massacre, he engaged equally with the harsh realities of the city and it’s past. He wrote:

‘I kept walking the streets, high-strung, and eager to snap scenes of convincing reality, but mainly I wanted to capture the quintessence of the phenomenon in a single image. Photographing, for me, is instant drawing, and the secret is to forget you are carrying a camera …’

Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment, 1952.

Revolutionising the medium of photography with his distaste for flash and cropping techniques, Cartier-Bresson is a pioneer of modern photography. He changed the way photographers made work over the following decades. Discovering the 35mm Leica camera in the 1930’s Cartier-Bresson found the perfect tool for his own exploration. Referring to his technique as ‘sketching’ he would roam the streets with his hand held camera, recording the city and finding the extraordinary in the everyday.

Shown in the UK for the first time, this exhibition is organised by Magnum Photos and the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson. It includes many of Cartier- Bresson’s best known photographers but many images are being shown in the UK for the first time. It runs from 23 April – 29 August 2016.