Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Scrapbook, photographs 1932-1946

Moscow, 20.09.2017—10.12.2017

exhibition is over

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The Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, is continuing its introduction to the work of the great French photographer, one of the founders of the humanist school in photography and the co-founder of the legendary Magnum photography agency, Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 2000, within the framework of the Third Photo-Biennial 2000 Moscow International Month of Photography in Moscow, at the Moscow House of Photography, an exhibition titled ‘Henri Cartier-Bresson. USSR: 1950—1970’ was held with enormous success. Now MAMM is presenting a new exhibition titled ‘Photograph Album by Henri Cartier-Bresson. 1932-1946’, which details the early period in the photographer’s work.

Henri Cartier-Bresson was born in 1908 in the town of Chanteloup-en-Brie, not far from Paris. From early childhood he had a great interest in painting and dreamt of becoming an artist. In 1927, Cartier-Bresson enrolled at the renowned private school of the sculptor and cubist artist André Lhote. Paying his dues to his teacher, Henri Cartier-Bresson later recalled that Lhote had infected him with «the virus of geometry» and taught him ‘to photograph without a camera.’ He had to interrupt his studies for service in the army, but Cartier-Bresson didn’t return to Lhote’s studio, deciding that he should independently find his own path in painting.

In 1931, Henri Cartier-Bresson traveled to Africa. In creative terms, the trip was not entirely successful, and he fell ill with a fever which almost killed him. Quickly returning to France to continue his treatment, Cartier-Bresson met his friends, surrealist artists, on a ship. At some point he caught sight of a renowned shot by the Hungarian photographer Martin Munkacsi, ‘Three boys at Lake Tanganykia’, which had a huge influence on the rest of his life. Later he recalled that ‘I unexpectedly realized that with the aid of photography you could capture eternity in a single moment of time.’ Arriving in Marseilles, where he was due to undergo a course of treatment, Henri Cartier-Bresson immediately bought a professional Leica and began photographing.

For days on end the young photographer would wander through the city and photograph everything and anything that was happening around him. ‘My main wish was to capture in a single image the main meaning of the scene that has arisen. It didn’t even occur to me then to do photographic reportage, in the sense of telling a story in several photographs. Only later, looking at the works of my friends in the same profession, looking at illustrated magazines and working for them, did I slowly learn to shoot them,’ he wrote.

It is with his Marseilles shots that ‘Photograph Album by Henri Cartier-Bresson’ begins, the photographer completing work on it in 1946. The book and exhibition put together by the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation is akin to a diary in photographs. ‘For me, the photographic camera is a notebook where I do my sketches, it is a tool of my intuition, of impulse, the master of the moment,’ Cartier-Bresson said. The photographic diary features incredibly varied events, though they are of equal importance from the point of view of the artist: journeys through Europe with friends, walks around Paris, Civil War in Spain, the coronation of George VI, trials of war criminals, the return of French soldiers and war prisoners, and much more.

‘Photograph Album by Henri Cartier-Bresson’ recounts his formation as a photographer, his periods of success and failure, his searches, his doubts, his passion for cinematography and years in captivity during the war. This is a look into the past, a summing up, a necessary pause that would be followed by a powerful leap forward — the formation of Magnum Photos, the most famous photo agency in the world, affiliation with which became synonymous with artistic recognition for many generations of photographers.

Project provided by

Fondation HCB

With support

MasterCard Tele2

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