Henri Cartier-Bresson: Photos of children (i)

Cartier-Bresson was an unsentimental observer of children but some of those photographs capture the unalloyed joy of childhood in a way that no other photographer ever has. The photograph of the young boy carrying two bottles of wine is a masterpiece.

HCB boy with wine

Cartier-Bresson has the subject of his photo front and centre of the frame. The young boy is the only element to the photo that is in focus, everything else is slightly blurred.

The two small girls in the background are following the young boy and appear to be applauding his progress.  This adds the emotional impact of the proud swagger of the boy who is clearly triumphant about having the two bottles of wine.  A boy on a man’s errand.

The bottles of wine are a compositional masterstroke. The sharp detail of the reflected light on the bottles anchors the young boy in the centre of the photo adding to the strength of the image of his upper body.

The two young girls in the background are balanced by the two women in black in the background. These three compositional elements frame the open space of the footpath that leads from the background of the photograph down to the boy who is anchored by his relationship with the building behind him.

Capturing this moment is a tribute to Cartier-Bresson “one camera, one lens” approach.

Cartier-Bresson used a rangefinder Leica with a 50 mm lens.
Cartier-Bresson used a rangefinder Leica with a 50 mm lens.

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