The Geometry Of Being

Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1933, Master of the passing moment and candid photojournalism. Photographed by George Hoyningen-Huene.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the major photographers of the 20th century, was a master of the moment and many of his pictures are now seen as masterpieces from the history of photography. After exhibitions devoted to Brassaï, Lee Miller and Edward Steichen, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg now continues its series with a further pioneering exponent of modern photography. The French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson used an ordinary Leica viewfinder camera on his numerous travels around the world which enabled him to select the right detail and capture the decisive moment within seconds.

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Henri Cartier Bresson, Alpes de Haute-Provence, Bei Cereste, France, 1999 © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, Courtesy of Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson.

He described his method of attaining precisely composed photographs with the words: “To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It’s a way of life.” What is so wonderful about Bresson’s work, is not only his ability to beautifully create bold abstract shapes referenced throughout the landscape -he applied geometry to his images poetically, if you look at the composition of his images he integrated vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines, curves, shadows, triangles, circles, and squares to his advantage, but also this innate ability to filter a scene down to its very essence.

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Henri Cartier Bresson, Hyères, France, 1932 © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, Courtesy of Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Henri Cartier-Bresson began traveling in 1930, at the age of twenty-two. For nearly half a century he was on the road most of the time, and the geographical range of his work is notoriously wide. Its historical range is just as broad -from ancient patterns of pre-industrial life to our contemporary era of ceaseless technological change. In the realm of photography Cartier-Bresson’s work presents a uniquely rich, far-reaching, and challenging account of the modern century.

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Henri Cartier Bresson,The Last Days of the KumomintangChina, 1949 © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, Courtesy of Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson.

The exhibition on view 3 September 2011 – 13 May 2012, which was made possible through the cooperation with Magnum Photos in Paris features about 100 works selected by the photographer himself. The black-and-white landscape pictures taken between 1933 and 1999 reveal the extent to which Cartier-Bresson’s work was inspired by the fundamentals of Far Eastern philosophy. The selection is supplemented by seven rare lithographs made available by his widow Martine Franck exclusively for this exhibition from her own private collection. For more on Bresson’s life and extraordinary career/body of work see the Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation