Everyone’s heard of Henri Cartier-Bresson right?

Everyone’s heard of Henri Cartier-Bresson right? He said that for him technology had changed but photography remained the same. When the French photographer and painter wrote those words in 1952 he summed up that photography is a mix of technology and visual design skills.

When technology changes ie. cameras, film, digital, lenses etc, and photography remains the same. So what is photography? It would therefore be logical to conclude that cameras have nothing to do with photography. A camera is only a device to record the idea.

The role of the photographer is to decide what is significant and how to record the idea with a camera for the viewer to appreciate or understand something better or differently.

For me photography is about the choices we make as photographers before the shutter release is pressed such as what is significant, what attracts us to the potential picture, knowing where to stand and when to press the button, considering the lighting and composition, depth of field required, exposure to give the expression we seek.

Don’t let the camera defraud you of the decisions that you should be making – exposure, focus point, depth of field etc. The more advanced cameras are, the less competent and engaged in the picture taking process the operator may be. I am not say that manual control of everything is the only way but it is a very good way to learn photography, to ubnderstand the what and why. Cameras do not know you, what you think and how you feel about a subject.

12 responses to Everyone’s heard of Henri Cartier-Bresson right?

  1. cjschmit says:

    Very well put and it’s a big reason why I named my offshoot for my B&W work “LightTrap” Just a fancy box to capture the light 🙂


  2. andybeel says:

    Thanks for the comments so far, I’m suprised that any body reads all the words let alone agrees with them. I shall have to be controversial next time?


  3. James Brandon O'Shea says:

    It definitely feels sometimes like Bresson had realized his images before the subject ever entered the frame. He knew about the pivotal moment and how to capture it (thinking especially of Gare Saint Lazare – the jumping from the ladder one). Never far from my mind, but thanks for the reminder.


  4. awarewriter says:

    Good article Andy. The last paragraph nails it for me. I took a few photos today with my Bessaflex and old M42 screw mount 28mm Takumar lens. Just for practice I guestimated the exposure using sunny 16, then confirmed with the stop down meter. One of these days I’m going to shoot a roll of film without any light meter at all.


  5. Sally W. Donatello says:

    On August 27 you kindly left a comment on my blog–Lens and Pens by Sally about the post “Monochromatic Photography: Contrast in Seeing,” I belatedly wanted to thank you. I have been perusing your blog and love it. You are a talented and insightful artist. I believe strongly that not only do photographers need to communicate with each other, they also need to “see” their images. I’ve bookmarked your site, and will follow your work and words. Thanks again, Sally


  6. athyfoto says:

    I whole-heartedly agree regarding taking control of the decisions about camera settings. Although I must confess to using ‘program’ mode on occasion when I’m feeling a bit lazy.


  7. davevickers says:

    Really enjoyable article. I always think of it as when you learn to drive, sure you can drive a car but it’s not until you stop thinking about how you’re doing it that you really start driving.


  8. Using a manual camera, the photographer is responsible for everything having to do with how successful the image is, and I believe good photographers know this, even when they are using a degree of automation in creating photographs.


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