I just watched a documentary on the late Henri Cartier-Bresson. It was quite fascinating and moving. The vast body of his work is so humbling and inspiring. And it was so interesting to watch the man himself go through piles and piles of his own photographs, each of them bringing back a memory that had been forgotten. Each of them a story, a piece of personal and also popular history.
I have this thing about movie quotes (if you haven’t noticed =P), sometimes lines just stick in my head. One line that’s always somewhere at the back of my mind is from Blade Runner, which is one of my favourite movies (if you don’t mind). It’s where a replicant Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer) comes across the man who made his eyes and says: ‘If only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes.’ That simple thought, so powerful in its absoluteness, moves me. The fact that you are the only person inside yourself, and you are the only person who sees things exactly the way you do… To me, the attempt – or ability – to show life through your own eyes has always defined what photography, or any visual artform, is about.
Anyways, I got to thinking about this after all the places and thoughts and feelings Cartier-Bressons pictures made me visit. The man had been everywhere. And usually just at the right moment from a photographers point of view – be it visually, politically or emotionally. To think that what if he hadn’t been a photographer… all these precious moments, jewels in time, would have only been embedded into his memories, slowly fading away even from there until evaporating from existence.
I must say watching that didn’t really ease my itchy feet… it made me yearn for travel and exploring even more. But it also made me want to dig out all my (many many many) photo albums and visit some fading memories. By the way, if you ever want to travel through someone elses eyes, be sure to check out the wonderful photos and stories of skiphunt, if you haven’t already. There’s a vast colourful world waiting for you.
Oh and there were also interviews of people Cartier-Bresson has taken portraits of. I loved it when Isabelle Huppert told about the way they were chatting and how suddenly she saw that, right at that moment, he saw something in her… and took a picture. And how by looking at that picture she realised that he’d been able to see some part of her purest self, she wasn’t even aware of, even though you’d think she’d know herself the best.
And what did Cartier-Bresson consider the most important aspect of taking photograps? Geometry. Everything has to be at their right place, at the right time. So there you go.