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EDWARD DIMSDALE talks about Henri Cartier-Bresson:

For anyone with a serious interest in photography, the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson is simply unavoidable. One can catch echoes of his influence almost everywhere one looks.

One of the first photographers I assisted owned an immaculate first edition copy of "The Decisive Moment". I can remember stealing time from the darkroom with the express intention of trying to unlock the secrets contained within. Like a sorcerer's apprentice on a distance learning course, I would return time and again to pore over the formal beauty of the compositions snatched from chaos, marvel at the luxurious weight and sooty texture of the gravure pages, always hoping against hope that by somehow scanning the pages over and over there would be some kind of alchemical change in me brought about by the work of the master magician. His photographs were the touchstones for my own first, clumsy fumblings with a camera, and they continue to exert an influence to this day.

Although it is not Cartier-Bresson's most universally recognized image, "Ile de La Cite, 1952" is my favourite. The whole scene is suffused with melancholy. An autumnal mist diffuses what I imagine to be an early morning view across the Seine towards the island of the title, where the river is forced to fork either side of an embankment. A little boat bobs across the dappled water. There is an almost-but-not-quite symmetry to the composition. And there, at the centre of the picture, gathered by a tree, is a little huddle of figures, right at the apex of the embankment. They appear to be wondering which fork to follow. Should they take the left? The right? No matter that either direction will ultimately lead them to the same destination. They have been frozen at the point of choice. Cartier-Bresson once again shows how a two-dimensional representation of the exterior world can elicit emotion because of the way that it reflects our interior world. We face our own choices everyday. Everyday we have to choose which fork to follow. And we do so with the knowledge that we, too, like the river, are ultimately headed for the sea.

For me, "Isle de La Cite, 1952" epitomises Cartier-Bresson's deft balancing of eye and heart - a beautiful, formal, organised composition, with at its centre, a little huddle of humanity.


Edward Dimsdale, London, July 2003



Isle de la Cite, 1952

 

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© 2003 Hackelbury Fine Art, Ltd. Copyright for all images is held by the respective artist or estate and they may not be reproduced in any form without express premission. All rights reserved.