Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary ‘L’amour de court’ (‘Just plain love’, 2001)

This documentary is available in 5 parts via  www.youtube.com/playlistlist=PL707C8F898605E0BF (accessed 28/10/2016). All quotes in the following section are taking from this documentary.

The Brief 

Write a personal response to the film in the contextual section of your learning log, taking care to reference properly any quotations you use (300–500 words). I shall refer to Henri Cartier-Bresson as HCB for this brief.


HCB was clearly a privileged man, due to his ability to own a Leica camera and be able to travel freely, where and when he wanted.  This gave him a wide subject base.

He was reflective about his past and HCB stated he “always feels like a prisoner on the run” referring to his time as a prisoner of war and keeping out of his subject’s way when shooting them. He was happy for things to age and did not believe everything had to be dynamic and keep up with the modern era. Does this mean he was not happy with modern society?

HCB explained how he took the “Jumper shot”, admits it was luck and down to simple chance, nothing more than being in the right place at the right time. He felt photographers need to be “just be receptive and it happens. “Geometry, Divine division, physical rhythm” is what he felt created his images.

He said “it’s in the eye” meaning that not everyone can do it, but looking for form and the potential for a shot is what is needed. Is this not somewhat contradictory with being lucky? He said “I go for form more than light”, which is a point I simply do not agree with.

‘It’s always luck” and “if you want it, you get nothing” meaning that you do not have to try too hard, but you have to be in the right place at the right time. This for me is partially true but it cannot all be luck. He was always prepared to take the shot and that can create luck itself.

As he has got older, he moved away from carrying his camera everywhere with him. HCB preferred to draw in his older age, as it appears as though he may have lost his enthusiasm, wanting to slow down and become more accepting of his older age.

He clearly had the ability to empathise with his subjects as they remained natural and unposed around him. The camera became “part of his body and soul”. He camouflaged his camera in order to limit anyone noticing him.

He was self-critical and confirmed this by saying “let’s see if there are any bad photo’s in there?” when referring to a portfolio for review. e.g. “This guy is in the wrong place, it’s no good”.  He wants his work to be the best and says “we should be more selective”.

HCB believed you have to question yourself to get the best out of yourself. What are you doing and why? But does this sit with his theory of being lucky to get a good image? Not for me.

In summary HCB was an amazing photographer, who felt he relied on luck and form to make a great image. Clearly there was more to it than that. I still enjoy looking over his images today, which are still mainly relevant.



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