15th Sep 2018
Henri Cartier-Bresson is remembered as one of the most influential figures in photography and is often credited as ‘the father of modern photojournalism.’ Cartier-Bresson lived and worked by the mantra of the ‘decisive moment’ which he defined as “the simultaneous recognition in a fraction of a second of the significance of an event as well as of the precise organisation of forms.” For Cartier-Bresson, a photograph had to contain significant content that was arranged into a rigorous composition, and this famous image is one of the best examples of that approach.
Rue Mouffetard, Paris captures the lively spirits of children on a Parisian street, as the young boy at the centre of the image beams with pride as he carries two large bottles under his arms. Cartier-Bresson used his unique skill of waiting for the precise moment when the composition came together, as the boy strides forwards and we see the girls in the background react to his cheeky swagger, to capture the atmosphere of the scene. Cartier-Bresson began to use a Leica camera in 1932, referring to it as “an extension of my eye,” the small camera allowed him to travel the streets with a mobility and speed perfect for the snapshot style photographs he made.
Taken in 1954, this photograph is an example of Cartier-Bresson’s post-war photojournalism, as he documented France’s recovery from the trauma of the war years. In 1947, Cartier-Bresson co-founded the photo agency Magnum photos with Robert Capa, David ‘Chim’ Seymour and George Rodgers. The agency provided a way for photographers to distribute their photojournalism while maintaining the rights to their photographs. Cartier- Bresson’s career from the late 1940s onwards was dominated by his work with Magnum which led to several commissions from LIFE magazine. His remit for the agency was to cover India and China, but he travelled extensively for the next twenty years, taking assignments in the USA, France, Italy, Greece, Egypt and Iran. Working across the globe, Cartier-Bresson swiftly became one of the world’s most sought-after photojournalists.