Henri Cartier-Bresson

Cartier-Bresson — Hyeres

In my attempts to make full use of the library, I often forget to hunt out the nice art books I’d buy if I had that much money to throw around and the strength to haul the hefty tomes around every time I move house. Cartier-Bresson is perhaps the photographer I am most likely to browse.

This book was published on the occasion of an exhibition organized by Agnès Sire of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris, which also came to the International Center of Photography in New York:

Cartier-Bresson — Behind Saint-Lazare Station, Paris, France, 1932

At the beginning of World War II, Cartier-Bresson was captured and held in a German prisoner of war camp for three years before he escaped in 1943. To the outside world, Cartier-Bresson was presumed dead, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York was preparing a memorial exhibition (which ultimately took place in 1947). When Cartier-Bresson emerged, alive, he joined the efforts to assemble this retrospective. He selected and personally printed over 300 examples of his best works — including many that had never printed before. Upon his arrival in New York in April 1946, he bought a scrapbook into which he meticulously glued all the prints in chronological order.

Though the actual scrapbook was falling apart and mostly dismantled in the 1990s, a few of the original pages were kept, with their browned pages and handwritten negative numbers. Sire’s essay questions why Cartier-Bresson’s photos of the Liberation of Paris were not included in the scrapbook without a definite answer. Cartier-Bresson himself didn’t come across them again until years later.