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HomeContentsThemes > Street: Classic French examples


391.01   The humanism of street photography in France
391.02   Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment
391.03   Classic French street photography
391.04   André Kertész: Street photography in Paris
391.05   Robert Doisneau: Humanistic photography
This theme includes example sections and will be revised and added to as we proceed. Suggestions for additions, improvements and the correction of factual errors are always appreciated. 
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391.01   Street >  The humanism of street photography in France 
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Different countries have artistic styles that reflect national sensitivities and France has had a remarkable group of photographers who have recorded life with humanity and humor - just looking at the photographs one is sucked into other people's lives. Jacques-Henri Lartique[1], Robert Doisneau and Henri Cartier-Bresson have shown all strata of society but they are not the portraits of alienated people passed in the street as Garry Winogrand[2] would take them - here the photographer captures the rich small intimate moments of people's lives. Photographers such as Brassaï (Translyvanian born) and André Kertész (Hungarian) who adopted France for periods of their lives also reflected this approach. 
391.02   Street >  Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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The liberation of Paris during the Second World War took place on 25 August 1944 with the arrival of the 2nd French Armoured Division in the center of the city.[3] After over four years of German occupation there was increasing optimism as Allied Forces were pushing towards Germany. It is perhaps not surprising that photography in France during the second half of the 1940s and 50s reflected the national mood of a joyful release. Street photographers searched for elusive moments that would sum up the entirety of an event, emotion or person.
Working with 35mm Contax and Leica cameras Henri Cartier-Bresson sought out the fractions of a second where an everyday occurrence in the street would create the perfect full-frame composition. Five years before the seminal book The Decisive Moment (1952) was published Beaumont Newhall wrote of the connections between art and photography in the photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson :
As a result of this plastic interest, each of Cartier's pictures is not only a moment, rich with significance, arrested; it is also a moment seen in such a powerful way, and with such a strong sense of the purely formal organization, that the transitory is made permanent.[4]
This is best known by the famous phrase 'the decisive moment' that is associated with Henri Cartier-Bresson [5]:
The decisive moment is the fleeting moment when the apex of the occurring action coincides with the other graphic elements within the frame to create the best possible composition.
"Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes..."
Photographers in post-war France, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Édouard Boubat and Willy Ronis, are particularly interesting as they appear to be non-judgmental and are not about changing society but rather about recording it's diversity. It's the very humanity and joy in the images that makes them so universal. The photographs in 1952 book The Decisive Moment covered Henri Cartier-Bresson's work in France, Spain, Italy and Great Britain but the majority of the photographs come from his travels to the United States, Mexico,[6] India,[7] Pakistan, China and Indonesia. This is not a complete list of the countries but indicates that the book is essentially a retrospective of his travel reportage with sections of French celebrities. The book includes his photographs taken from 1932 until 1951 with none taken between 1939 and 1943 during the Second World War.[8] The key factor here is the period when it published in 1952 as the world was recovering from the war. When examined critically the book includes some of the best known photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson but not all are outstanding but that would be setting the bar very high. If we ignore the relaxed portraiture often in domestic settings what the book did was free photographers to seek out those fractions of a second that highlight a longer experience - there was the freedom to travel and use a 35mm camera to record seemingly inconsequential moments rather than tourist stereotypes and monuments. The Decisive Moment was also influential as it showed to other photographers and publishers that there was a market for books of street photography and informal reportage. This lead the way for books in the 1950s by William Klein (1955),[9] Ed Van der Elsken (1956)[10] and Robert Frank (1958).[11] 
391.03   Street >  Classic French street photography 
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There are so many timeless images from street photography in France that selected iconic examples is difficult but one should include:
  • Behind the Gare St. Lazare / Place de l'Europe, Paris - showing a man seemingly levitating as he jumps across over a puddle (1932) - Henri Cartier-Bresson  
  • Sunday on the Banks of the Marne - where four well-nourished friends, presumably two middle aged couples, have nearly finished their picnic and are relaxing with a drink that is in the process of being poured (1938) - Henri Cartier-Bresson  
  • Kiss by the Hotel de Ville - showing a gentle kiss in a busy Paris street (1950) - Robert Doisneau. This last one of more problematic as it was later found to have been staged with models hired by the photographer.  
  • These are timeless images reprinted in the classic histories of photography and hung as posters on the walls of students around the world. Basically they show humanity with humor and warmth. When in 1952 the book The Decisive Moment (Images a La Sauvette) came out with the photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson it became apparent that there was a mass market for this type of photography. They were creators of a trend towards a more ironic type of photography that evolved with the optimism and freedoms of the 1950's in the USA and western Europe - this included people like John Deakin (1916-1972) in the UK, or the Swiss-born Robert Frank in his book The Americans that was based on the images he took during his 1955 Guggenheim grant. 
    391.04   Street >  André Kertész: Street photography in Paris 
    About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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    André Kertész was Hungarian by birth[12] and arrived in Paris in September 1925 at a time of immense cultural ferment. He was one of a group of Hungarian photographers who were active in France including François Kollar, Robert Capa, Emeric Fehér, Brassaï, Julia Bathory. Man Ray, Germaine Krull and Lucien Aigner. He stayed in Paris and worked for numerous magazines including Vu, Le Sourire, Arts et Métiers Graphiques and Art et Médecine. His work during this period of street photography of the inter-war period was a significant element in his overall work.[13] As war became more likely Kertész left France in 1936 to settle in New York
    391.05   Street >  Robert Doisneau: Humanistic photography 
    About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
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    Slideshow (Be patient as this has 20 slides to load.) 
    Robert Doisneau (1912-1994) was an outstanding Parisian street photographer who explored everyday moments within public space.[14] Joyful moments of children doing handstands, a balloon seller (Le Garde et les Ballons, a couple waltzing in the street at night (La Dernier Valse du Juillet 14, Paris) or a sneaky look at a nude painting Un regard Oblique are what made his body of work both touching and approachable. Later in his career his work would have to be reassessed when it was revealed that one of his most famous photographs Le Basier de L'Hotel de Ville (1950) used hired participants. Despite the controversy over this incident Robert Doisneau's photographs have become a significant part of French visual culture. 

    1. Λ Jacques-Henri Lartigue, 1966, Boyhood Photos of J. H. Lartigue: The Family Album of a Gilded Age, (Lausanne, Switzerland: Ami Guichard); Martine D’Astier, Quentin Bajac & Alain Saya, 2003, Lartigue: Album of a Century, (New York: Harry N. Abrams) 
    2. Λ For the most complete overview on Garry Winogrand - Sarah Greenough, Erin O'Toole, Tod Papageorge, Sandra S. Phillips & Leo Rubinfien (ed.), 2013, Garry Winogrand, (Yale University Press)
      For Garry Winogrand's books - Garry Winogrand, 1969, The Animals, (New York: Museum of Modern Art) [Republished Museum of Modern Art (2004)]; Garry Winogrand, 1975, Women Are Beautiful, (New York: Light Gallery & Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Garry Winogrand, 1977, Public Relations, (New York: Museum of Modern Art) [Republished by The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004)]; Garry Winogrand, 1980, Stock Photographs: Fort Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo, (Olympic Marketing Corp) 
    3. Λ French photographer Robert Doisneau recorded the struggle for the Liberation of Paris - Robert Doisneau, 1944, La semaine héroïque. 19-25 Août 1944, (Paris: S.E.P.E.) 
    4. Λ Beaumont Newhall, January 1947, "Vision Plus the Camera: Henri Cartier-Bresson", Popular Photography, vol. 20, pp. 56-57, 134, 136, 138. Reprinted in Beaumont Newhall (ed.), 1980, Photography: Essays & Images, (London: Secker & Warburg), pp. 282-287 
    5. Λ Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1952, Images à la Sauvette, (Paris: Editions Verve); Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1952, The Decisive Moment, (New York: Simon and Schuster) An edition was released in 2014 by Steidl.
      The Wikipedia page on Henri Cartier-Bresson says:
      Both titles came from publishers. Tériade, the Greek-born French publisher whom Cartier-Bresson idolized, gave the book its French title, Images à la Sauvette, which can loosely be translated as "images on the run" or "stolen images." Dick Simon of Simon & Schuster came up with the English title The Decisive Moment. Margot Shore, Magnum's Paris bureau chief, did the English translation of Cartier-Bresson's French preface
      Unfortunately it did not provide sources for this information. (Accessed: 31 May 2014) 
    6. Λ For Henri Cartier-Bresson in Mexico - Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1996, Henri Cartier-Bresson: Mexican Notebooks 1934-1964, (Thames & Hudson) 
    7. Λ For Henri Cartier-Bresson in India - Henri Cartier-Bresson, 2006, Henri Cartier-Bresson: India, (Thames & Hudson) 
    8. Λ For thirty-five months during the Second World War Henri Cartier-Bresson was a German prisoner of war. He escaped twice and was recaptured, and on his third attempt he escaped and joined the French Resistance in Paris. Beaumont Newhall, January 1947, "Vision Plus the Camera: Henri Cartier-Bresson", Popular Photography, vol. 20, pp. 56-57, 134, 136, 138. Reprinted in Beaumont Newhall (ed.), 1980, Photography: Essays & Images, (London: Secker & Warburg), pp. 282-287 
    9. Λ William Klein, 1955,New York 1954, (Marval); William Klein, 1956, [NEW YORK] Life is good & good for you in NEW YORK, (Editions du Seuil); William Klein, 1958-1959, Rome: The City and its People, (The Viking Press) [Also published by Seuil, Paris (1959) and Feltrinelli, Milan (1960). Republished by Aperture (2009) with texts by Alberto Moravia, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Ennio Flaiano, Federico Fellini.]; William Klein, 1964, Mockba - Moscow, (New York: Crown); William Klein, 1964, Tokyo, (New York: Crown Publishers); William Klein, 1964, Tokyo, (Tokyo, Japan: Zokeisha Publications) 
    10. Λ André Deutsch & Ed Van der Elsken, 1956, Love on the Left Bank, (Holland: Export printing office W. vonk); Ed Van der Elsken, 1966, Sweet Life, (New York: Harry N. Abrams) 
    11. Λ Robert Frank, 1958, Les Américains, (Paris: Delpire) 
    12. Λ André Kertész was born on 2 July 1894 in in Budapest when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 
    13. Λ André Kertész, 1945, Day of Paris, (New York: J.J. Augustin); André Kertész, 1974, J’aime Paris: Photographs Since the Twenties, (New York: Grossman Publishers); Sandra S. Phillips, 1985, André Kertész: Of Paris and New York, (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago) 
    14. Λ There are many books by Robert Doisneau and an overview of life - Peter Hamilton, 1995, Robert Doisneau: A Photographer’s Life, (New York: Abbeville Press) 


    HomeContents > Further research

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    Readings on, or by, individual photographers 
    Henri Cartier-Bresson 
    Arbaizar, P. et al., 2003, Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, the Image and the World: A Retrospective, (New York: Thames & Hudson) [Δ
    Cartier-Bresson, Henri, 1952, The Decisive Moment, (New York: Simon and Schuster) [Δ
    Cartier-Bresson, Henri, 1992, Henri Cartier-Bresson: Photographer, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company) [Δ
    Galassi, Peter, 1993, Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Early Work, (New York: Museum of Modern Art) [Δ
    Robert Doisneau 
    Doisneau, Robert, 1980, Three Seconds from Eternity, (Boston: New York Graphic Society) [Δ
    Doisneau, Robert, 1997, Three Seconds from Eternity: Photographs by Robert Doisneau, (New York: te Neues Publishing Co) [Δ
    Gautrand, Jean Claude, 2012, Robert Doisneau, (Taschen) isbn-10: 3836540037 isbn-13: 978-3836540032 [Taschen Icons] [Δ
    Gautrand, Jean Claude, 2014, Robert Doisneau, (Taschen) isbn-10: 3836547147 isbn-13: 978-3836547147 [Sew edition] [Δ
    Hamilton, Peter, 1995, Robert Doisneau: A Photographer’s Life, (New York: Abbeville Press) [Δ
    Jacques-Henri Lartigue 
    Lartigue, J. H., 2003, Jacques Henri Lartigue: A Life’s Diary, (Paris: Centre Pompidou) [Δ
    Lartigue, Jacques-Henri, 1970, Diary of a Century, (New York: Viking Press) [Edited by R. Avedon] [Δ
    Willy Ronis 
    Gautrand, Jean Claude, 2013, Willy Ronis, (Taschen) isbn-10: 3836531046 isbn-13: 978-3836531047 [Δ
    Ronis, Willy, 2004, Willy Ronis: La Vie en Passant, (Prestel Publishing) isbn-10: 3791329308 isbn-13: 978-3791329307 [German and English] [Δ
    Ronis, Willy, 2010, Willy Ronis: Une poétique de l'engagement, (Democratic Books) isbn-10: 2361040034 isbn-13: 978-2361040031 [Δ
    If you feel this list is missing a significant book or article please let me know - Alan - 

    HomeContentsPhotographers > Photographers worth investigating

    Édouard Boubat  (1923-1999) • Brassaï  (1899-1984) • Henri Cartier-Bresson  (1908-2004) • Robert Doisneau  (1912-1994) • André Kertész  (1894-1985) • Jacques-Henri Lartigue  (1894-1986)
    HomeThemesStreet > Street: Classic French examples 
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    Alan -

    ThumbnailAndré Kertész: Bookseller 
    About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
    ThumbnailAndré Kertész: Day of Paris 
    About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
    ThumbnailAndré Kertész: Newstand, Paris 
    About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
    ThumbnailAndré Kertész: Street photography in Paris 
    About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
    ThumbnailÉdouard Boubat: Street photography and tender moments 
    About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
    ThumbnailHenri Cartier-Bresson: Hyeres 
    About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
    ThumbnailHenri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment 
    About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
    ThumbnailRobert Doisneau: Humanistic photography 
    About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
    ThumbnailRobert Doisneau: Un regard Oblique 
    About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
    ThumbnailRobert Doisneau: Un regard oblique - variants 
    About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
    ThumbnailWilly Ronis: Paris 
    About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
    Refreshed: 09 January 2015, 05:45
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