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WILLY RONIS talks about Henri Cartier-Bresson:

This image holds a special meaning for me on several levels. I spent a lot of time on the banks of the Marne in the thirties and forties, doing reportages, and continued to visit over the next twenty years with my late wife. She was a very keen walker and we used to stroll for hours along the river; I still hop in a train sometimes to visit this place which is so full of memories.

The scene you see here also means a great deal to French people as a whole, particularly my own generation but also each one that follows. It marks the beginning of national paid holidays, which has changed the life of all French workers since 1936.
I think that Henri’s work had a lot of influence on 20th Century photography, but for me personally a little less! I became a photographer by accident rather than by vocation; it wasn’t based on admiration for any other photographer and I didn’t favour anyone in particular.

In 1936, just before I became a photographer, I met Henri and saw his work but it wasn’t really then that it impressed me as such. I was introduced to the work of Capa and Chim at the same time and became great friends with Capa; Henri was more of a secret.

It was only after the war, when I had really become a photographer, that I recognised something important that we shared. The composition that is so dear to Henri is also a big part of my work. Henri’s source was always painting; mine was Breugel, the Flemish Masters and music, with the counterpoint of J.S. Bach.
Of course the fact that Henri didn’t influence me personally doesn’t diminish the admiration I always had for him. For me he is the single most influential figure in twentieth century photography. Indeed, along with André Kertész and Bill Brandt, I believe he is one of the three great names of photography of our time.

Willy Ronis, Paris, July 2003

To see Willy Ronis's work click here

On the Banks of the Marne, 1938


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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.