From the page: "10 Things Henri Cartier-Bresson Can Teach You About Street Photography
by Eric Kim on August 22, 2011
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In preparation for my upcoming street photography workshops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago I have been doing quite a bit of research into Henri Cartier-Bresson, the Godfather of street photography. LA-based Bo Lorentzen even lent me a copy of a documentary on HCB himself, which was quite insightful about his approach to street photography (as well as footage of him shooting on the streets of Paris).
Although my current approach in street photography is more like Bruce Gilden and less of Henri Cartier-Bresson, HCB influenced much of my earlier work and I still deeply respect his photography and philosophies. I hope you are able to enjoy these things I believe you can learn from Henri Cartier-Bresson about street photography. Keep reading to become inspired and learn more.
1. Focus on geometry
If you look at the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, 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. He also paid particular attention to frames as well.
Donât only see the world as it is, look for shapes and geometry that occur naturally as well. Open up your mind and break your environment into different formal elements. Look for lines that may lead to your subjects or squares that may frame your image. Become poetic with your images and integrate interesting actors and stages when you are out shooting.
2. Be patient
When Henri Cartier-Bresson would talk about âoeThe Decisive Momentâ he said sometimes it would be spontaneous but others times he had to be patient and wait for it. Regardless he was very methodological when he would go out and shoot, and would only keep his images if every element of his image (people, background, framing, and composition) were perfect.
When you are out shooting and you see fascinating scenes, wait for the right person to walk by to complete your image. Although you donât want to camp out for hours on end to wait for the right moment to occur, practice a bit of patience. You donât always need to go out and hunt for photo-opportunities. Allow them to come to you.
Henri Cartier-Bresson traveled the world and shot in places such as India, all of Europe, the United States, China, as well as xxxx. When he traveled the world, he was able to capture a different slice of life and learn more about the local people he was with. For example when he was shooting in Indiaâ"he stayed there for around a year and immersed himself into the culture.
Although it is great to shoot street photography in your backyard, it is great to travel as often as you can. Explore different countries and cultures, and it will help inspire your photography and open your eyes.
4. Stick to one lens
Although Henri Cartier-Bresson shot with several different lenses while on-assignment working for Magnum, he would only shoot with a 50mm if he was shooting for himself. By being faithful to that lens for decades, the camera truly became âoean extension of his eyeâ.
Apply the same mentality to when you go out and shoot. I encourage people to use different focal lengths to see the world differently and experimentâ"but ultimately sticking with one focal length will help you solidify your artistic vision. You will be able to see natural framelines in your everyday life, and know exactly how your photos will appear when shooting from certain angles and distances.
5. Take photos of children
One of my favorite photos by Henri Cartier-Bresson is of this little boy carrying two bottles of wine under his arms, with the triumphant grin of a champion. When I first saw the image, it struck me in the heart as it reminded me of my own childhood. Henri Cartier-Bresson was a master at taking photos of children in their natural playful state, creating images that convey beautiful nostalgia to his viewers.
Nowadays it is incredibly difficult to shoot children (all of this hysteria in the news about pedophilia and kidnappings). However children are great subjects to shoot when it comes to street photography. In my experience I have noticed that they donât mind being in front of the camera, and often ignore it. Therefore you are able to capture their true essence: playful, curious, and often mischievous.
6. Be unobtrusive
When Henri Cartier-Bresson would shoot on the streets, he would stay as low-key and unobtrusive as he could. I even read that he would cover his chrome Leica in black tape and even sometimes with a hankerchief to make it less noticeable when he was out shooting. Most of the images that he captured his subjects were oblivious of the camera, and thus truly candid.
If you wish to shoot the same way, wear clothes that blend into