Three Lessons Learned From The Father Of Street Photography - Henri Cartier-Bresson

in #photography5 years ago


Cartier-Bresson is an inspirations to so many amazing photographers. As a candid photographer from France, he is labelled as the father of street photography and began the hunt for that decisive moment when shooting on the street. He had a very colourful history ranging from military life to long lasting affairs. There is so much to learn from his photography I decided to share three of the most important lessons I've learned from his work.

Lesson 1: Hunt for the decisive moment

The decisive moment is a moment that turns a regular scene into one that captivates the viewer. It freezes time in a position that is, for lack of a better word, perfect. You know when viewing it that if it were taken a moment earlier or later it just wouldn't be the same.

A perfect example of a decisive moment. Source

This is the beauty of photography. To capture those everyday moments that are so easy to overlook but so satisfying to see frozen in time and although it may seem simple don't let that fool you into believing it's in any means easy to achieve. When the decisive moment is paired with the second lesson it can turn almost any photograph into a true artwork.

"Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again." - Cartier-Bresson

Lesson 2: Having a vision, with composition in mind

If you've read through my previous posts on photo analysis I'm sure you're a little tired of me talking about composition, but it really is the paramount aspect of not just photography but art in general. I recently used the below Cartier-Bresson photograph in a previous post and thought I'd use it again to hammer home lessons one and two.



This photo I feel is a perfect example of using composition to create a great photo. Henri Cartier-Bresson is renown for using the Golden Ratio which is found throughout nature as a composition tool for his photographs.

The spiralling staircase as well as capturing the decisive moment of the passing cyclist creates such a visually pleasing image. This isn't just luck on the photographers part, it comes from planning ahead and having an internal vision that you work to make a reality and then capture. Here is another example of a Cartier-Bresson photo demonstrating this use of composition.


And another


“It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head.” – Cartier-Bresson

Lesson 3: Explore photography to explore yourself

"Henri Cartier-Bresson" Source

Above all else, Henri Cartier-Bresson saw life itself as the greatest canvas and photography was merely a way to capture snippets of its masterpiece. Following this notion you can find beauty in your life no matter where you look. Whether it is in the mundane as I have covered previously, or in amazing landscapes. Whether in lush jungles or concrete cities live your life to the fullest wherever it is and if you're prepared with a camera life will present beautiful photographs wherever you go! As Henri himself said...

“You just have to live and life will give you pictures.”

So get out there, live to your fullest and see the worlds beauty from whatever angle you happen to be viewing it from!

None of the above photographs are my own, all were taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson (or taken of him, also not by me)

Yours with Purpose

Free Spirit, Creative
Positive Thinker
An Adventure Awaits Us


This is an interesting and instructive post. Thanks for sharing.

Thank you! I’m really glad you found it useful and I hope it helps with your photography 👍

Looks like you are going even more deeper in photography. Even more, helping other photographers while you are learning. Great job man! Keep it coming

It’s always good to learn and share that with others. Glad you like it!

It's a bit hard to draw spirals on your photos though since it's after the fact and you might not be able to recreate the moment. This is the problem with stuff like that I think. It's all fine in theory but does it work in real life?

I suppose that's where the skill of photography steps in, or the art you could say haha. When you go to take a photo there are so many little changes you could make in the angle and perspective...

The rule of thirds is a similar composition grid to imagine laid over an image, I feel that it helps make an image more palatable for the eyes in the same way as imagining the golden ratio :)


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I love that first photo the most with the flying birds. Absolute poetry in motion. What a great inspiration indeed!

 5 years ago  Reveal Comment

Hey thank you I'm glad you found it useful :)