Cartier-Bresson and the ferryman of the Rhine

This photo, entitled  On the Rhine, Germany, 1956  is another example of the way in which Cartier-Bresson structures his photographs. There is a large expanse of white light on the river, even on this dull and dreary day.

HCB on the rhine

The density of this white light breaks up as we follow the line of boats down to the bottom right-hand side of the photo.  The density of the white light is also in sharp contrast to the dark shapes in the small dark dinghies.

But while this picture is immensely satisfying in compositional terms, its emotional impact is also very strong. The forbidding and dehumanising nature of the industrial Rhine is captured in the dark and sombre tone of the photograph.

There are also echoes and resonances of the ferryman crossing the River Styx transporting lost souls to Hades.

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