By Henri Cartier-Bresson, Seville, Spain, 1933
What, for you, are the milestones in the Magnum photobook catalogue?
Let’s start with Decisive Moment and Death in the Making by two of our founders [Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa, respectively] who also set the agenda, if you like, for Magnum with their opposite art and journalistic backgrounds.
What does a photobook give you that a regular book doesn’t?
It gives you an opportunity to live with the work and enjoy it, to take it in and soak it up. You wouldn’t get that with an exhibition or an online show, so it creates a relationship. It’s a tactile thing as well, so it’s a very appealing way of delivering a body of work.
Instagram versus the photobook: who wins and why?
I like Instagram, but ultimately I’d have to choose the book. It’s the perfect package because of the reason I just said. It smells; it has a shape or form; it’s physical. You know, Instagram is [full of] one-off pictures whereas the photobook is a sequence of pictures – and that’s very important.
Full interview here.
“…Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”
“To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.”
“Actually, I’m not all that interested in the subject of photography. Once the picture is in the box, I’m not all that interested in what happens next. Hunters, after all, aren’t cooks.”
“The decisive moment? That’s when Cartier-Bresson pointed to a frame on his contact sheet and said, ‘Print that one'”
“If a photograph is to communicate its subject in all its intensity, the relationship of forms must be rigorously established. Photography implies the recognition of a rhythm in the world of real things. What the eye does is to find and focus on the particular subject within the mass of reality; what the camera does is simply to register upon film the decision made by the eye.”
“We look and perceive a photograph as we do a painting, in its entirety and all in one glance. In a photograph, composition is the result of a simultaneous coalition, the organic coordination of elements seen by the eye. One does not add composition as though it were an afterthought superimposed on the basic subject material, since it is impossible to separate content from form. Composition must have its own inevitability about it.”
“In photography there is a new kind of plasticity, the product of instantaneous lines made by movements of the subject. We work in unison with movement as though it were a presentiment on the way in which life itself unfolds. But inside movement there is one moment at which the elements in motion are in balance.”
“Photography must seize upon this moment and hold immobile the equilibrium of it.”
“The photographer’s eye is perpetually evaluating. A photographer can bring coincidence of line simply by moving his head a fraction of a millimeter. He can modify perspectives by a slight bending of the knees. By placing the camera closer to or farther from the subject, he draws a detail – and it can be subordinated, or it can be tyrannized by it. But he composes a picture in very nearly the same amount of time it takes to click the shutter, at the speed of a reflex action.”
“Sometimes it happens that you stall, delay, wait for something to happen. Sometimes you have the feeling that here are all the makings of a picture – except for just one thing that seems to be missing. But what one thing? Perhaps someone suddenly walks into your range of view. You follow his progress through the viewfinder. You wait and wait, and then finally you press the button – and you depart with the feeling (though you don’t know why) that you’ve really got something. Later, to substantiate this, you can take a print of this picture, trace it on the geometric figures which come up under analysis, and you’ll observe that, if the shutter was released at the decisive moment, you have instinctively fixed a geometric pattern without which the photograph would have been both formless and lifeless.”
“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”