Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review : Europeans - Henri Cartier-Bresson


Rating : 5.0/5
Number of Pages : 232
Format : Non Fiction, Photography
Reason for Reading : Course Reading Material

This book was recommended to me by my tutor before getting started on the second part of my course (Elements of Design) and as soon as I started going through the images I could see why. My studying has been focusing on lines, shapes and patterns and all of these photos are filled with these ideas. Beginning with an introduction by Jean Clair, he sums up the collection as "a closely woven portrait of Europe after the war: accumulated ruins and the marks of hunger and woe on people's faces still appearing very clearly." This is certainly the case for many of the photographs, but there is also a sense of abandon and joy to be found as well. The best to describe this is simply to show you some of the photos from the collection.

This was taken in Rome, Italy and shows instantly HCB's grasp of design and the play between light and shadow (a theme that crops up in many of the photos in this collection). He times his shot perfectly with the girl running through the patch of light on the ground, illuminating her and drawing your eye in despite her only being a small object in the frame.

Another of my favourite shots taken of a Guard of Honour at a ceremony commemorating Leningrad's liberation in the USSR. The line of the guards and in particular their feet really stands out and I love the shapes. Your eye is really quickly drawn to the young girl in the bottom left, peeking out and holding flowers. The flowers are dropping and form a curve against the straight line of the guards giving the picture a sadness.
Possibly my favourite of all in the collection is Aquila, The Abruzzi taken in Italy again. The mixture of curves and lines is really striking here both between the man made stairs and fences and the women and children. There is also a line of men in the background parallel to the far metal fence. This really does capture a moment for me when everything seems to come together all at once. His patience must have been astounding!

Highly recommended to anyone interested in either photography (particularly street photography) or design. I have printed out some of my favourites which I have put in my notebook to use as inspiration both now and in the future. Interestingly when I was in Italy last October in Bologna, I stumbled across an exhibition of his which I spent a few hours looking around. I didn't know who he was at the time and hadn't started formally studying photography yet, but I did recognise some of the pictures from the book from the exhibition. Funny how life is symmetrical at times.

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