Henri Cartier–Bresson and the art of juxtaposition

One of Cartier-Bresson’s many talents was his ability to juxtapose ideas and images in his photos. tumblr_m5vuobM9N31qcidxzo1_1280

At first glance, this is a picture of two young boys, carefree and rolling an old cycle wheel down the pavement.  It’s improvised, spontaneous fun.

But look carefully.

Follow the line from the two young boys to the car in the middle ground and then up to the hearse waiting in the traffic. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition of the ideas of youth and death, linked by the formal structure of the photo.

And then there’s this wonderful photograph of the young priests on the steps of the church in Rome. HCB1959037W05876/05A

The priests, immaculately attired, stand chatting amongst themselves, oblivious to the woman who is entering the church, presumably to pray.

Perhaps the priest might pop in later.

There is another aspect of these two particular photographs.

It is well-known that Cartier-Bresson was a street photographer, he wandered the streets with his Leica taking photographs.

Some of them seem to be so brilliantly composed that It seems difficult to believe that they are simply fortuitous.

The formal composition of these two photographs is faultless.

So the question is “Did Cartier-Bresson pose some of his street photographs or was he simply an intuitively and extraordinarily brilliant photographer?”

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