Friday, August 22, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson, born this day
August 22, in 1908 (died in 2004) has been called "greatest photographer of the twentieth century" and "father of photojournalism". A pioneer of shooting photographs in the 35 mm format, his career spanned more than sixty years.

Cartier-Bresson recorded the drama of his era's news stories best by often choosing to focus his lens away from the main event and towards ordinary people, catching their reactions. He produced iconic portraits of notable personalities such as Matisse, Picasso, Coco Chanel, Truman Capote and Gandhi; but his portraits of unknown characters often prove far more intriguing, their fleeting emotion captured for ever by his gifted eye, aided by a camera lens. He also made films with Jean Renoir and others, and a 1937 documentary on Republican Spain; he co-founded the photographic cooperative, Magnum. During the Second World War, he was captured by Germans; after two attempts, he escaped in February 1943. Throughout his long career as photographer he travelled widely, recording diversity of life all over the world. In 1975, twenty-nine years before he died he abandoned photography and turned his attention to drawing and painting. (For a piece on this see Artes Magazine HERE)

The photographer's own words from his book The Mind's Eye:
"To take photographs means to recognize -- simultaneously and within a fraction of a second -- both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning."

"A velvet hand, a hawk's eye - these we should all have."
He was an artist in every sense of the word, his main tool, not a brush or pencil (though he wielded both at times) but a camera.

I haven't been able to glean much information about Henri Cartier-Bresson's personality. In the video at the end of this post he admits to being very impulsive. He appears to have been something of a romantic - had an intense affair with the wife of an American ex-patriate, Harry Crosby. Crosby said of him that he "looked like a fledgling, shy and frail, and mild as whey." He married twice, was described by one of many biographers, Pierre Assouline, briefly thus:
"His taste was classical: he needed that kind of order to counter the vulgarity of the world outside" & "In affairs of the heart, he was a seductive romantic."
Wikipedia's page on Henri Cartier-Bresson and a fairly brief piece at give further detail of his life and career.

A look at his natal chart, then at a few of his many photographs.

Henri Cartier-Bresson born on 22 August 1908 in Chanteloup-en-Brie, France, at 2:51 PM (Astrodatabank AA)

Astrologically, Neptune is said to represent photography. Here we have Neptune conjunct Venus (planet of the arts) and Moon (inner emotional self) all in emotionally- sensitive Cancer - what better signature for a great photographer?

Another cluster, or stellium, in Leo/Virgo involves Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Mercury. This cluster represents his driving force, the engine sending him around the world (Jupiter), the energy and enthusiasm for it all (Mars), and the ability to communicate his thoughts with photographic precision (Mercury).

Two sides - both essential to his art.

Outside the two clusters are Saturn and Uranus, in Aries and Capricorn respectively. Uranus, from Capricorn, opposes Neptune/Venus/Moon, challenging that emotionally sensitive group to be business-like and forward looking - he used best new technology available.

Saturn, from Aries, squares Uranus as well as Neptune/Venus/Moon. I'm not sure how to interpret this. Saturn represents limitation, reality, keeping feet on ground - that kind of thing. Perhaps Saturn is controlling what might otherwise have been an airy-fairy mess of emotional pourings, into something practical: a set of photographs to be appreciated over time, for centuries. Saturn likes that kind of thing.

The T-square - that red triangle - it pulls together the opposition and squares I've mentioned. In some cases such a configuration might be difficult to handle - it doesn't seem to have hindered Henri Cartier-Bresson at all!

There are so many photographs of his, it was difficult to know which were most representative of HCB's work - so I chose a few which particularly appealed to me, for more photographs, there's an excellent slideshow at Magnum Photos HERE, and in the video below.

For sharper versions - better resolution - please click on images.

 La danse Alloeng Kotjok, Sayan, Bali, Indonésie.

 New Year's Eve, NYC

And, finally, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED a video featuring his photographs, narrated by the photographer himself:

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mike said...

His narrative video made this post a gift, Twilight! Thoroughly enjoyed his thoughts and perspective toward life and his work. I felt I was part of the movie set for "My Dinner with Andre" and I imagine that sitting with Cartier-Bresson over food and drink must have been a delight. Hearing his own descriptions of his photography gave an added dimension.

I doubt that he had an easy life, but he surely made the most of it and derived some positive views. His remarks in the video lead me to believe that he learned to astutely observe the world and its peoples...perhaps the stellium in his 7th house, the not-self...and the shared resources of the 8th house. He captured his romance with people on film, as an observer, not a practitioner...he made the remark that he hates people...LOL. I suspect that Uranus in the 1st would have set him safely apart from his observations in the view-finder. The camera allowed him to partake in the world, but was also a partition allowing autonomy.

Gigi said...

Huge Linda Goodmanesque generalisation, but I have always thought there was an affinity between Cancer-type energies and photography - especially stills photography. Or drawing, for that matter.

Cancer-energy can be very visual and visionary, plus it is a hold-fast energy. Sign least likely (along with Taurus!), to "kiss the joy as it flies". Cancer-types do love their souvenirs and mementoes; a little bit of frozen time, they can take out and look at.

Twilight said...

mike ~ I was delighted to find the video - didn't do so until the post had been drafted, otherwise I might have relied on its content more.
I don't know the movie you mention, but looked up the Wiki page for it - yes - I see what you mean!

That T-square would have kept him challenged, but he found a way to roll with its flow. What a life - living for long periods in far away places, indulging in his beloved photography. Yet he tired of it eventually, wore himself out with the travel perhaps, it couldn't have been easy back then, then he took to his paints and pencils once more.

Fascinating character!

Twilight said...

Gigi ~ I'd not considered that, usually connecting photography with Pisce/Neptune, but now you mention it, Cancer does make sense too. The sign's sentimentality and "holding -on" trait. My mother had a stellium in Cancer and she adored her family photograph collection - often could be found pouring over them. I inherited some of that via Cancer rising, but find it painful to pour over them too often now that all are gone - but me. (Getting sentimental...Aquarius says stop that!)

Although, in a way, that Cancer sign trait refers more to the feelings of the "receiver" of the photograph than to the "giver" - person who produces it. But then the "giver" must have that instinct too, in another layer of their nature.

I'm now reminding myself of the film from Monday's post "The Giver" - The Giver stored memories of the community. LOL!

Gigi said...

"The memories of the community" - you got the Cancer-energy ;)

I like it.

Lolling at "Aquarius says don't be sentimental".

Ascendant only, so Acqua-skin, but not Acqua-bones. Still, don't put yourself down. Aquarius has a heart as big as the Rift Valley. So many things live and breathe and have their habitation in that heart that Aqua can come off not particularly involved with any of them. They are though. Just not up close and personal ;)

mike (again) said...

Off topic, Twilight...I saw this on NBC news tonight. A story about "an uncommon man" (2.5 minutes):

Twilight said...

Gigi ~ I used to have high regard for Aquarius - until I got to know about Dick Cheney, and Chief Justice John Roberts that is. ;-) I'm uncomfortable being in their "gang".

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ What an amazing young man! Thanks for the link.

anyjazz said...

Good post. Glad I watched the vid and made a connection with an old magazine I have been saving for years because of the Cartier-Besson photograph on the cover.