Cartier-Bresson: Self-portrait and compositional descant

There is a wonderful self-portrait of Henri Cartier-Bresson. It bears all the hallmarks of his genius for photographic composition.

HCB portrait

The focus of the picture is the expression on Cartier-Bresson’s face as he appears prepares for a shot. We are drawn to his eyes,  framed by his glasses.

The focus of the picture is the expression on Cartier-Bresson’s face as he appears prepares for a shot. We are drawn to his eyes,  framed by his glasses.

The line of the glasses runs down to the secondary focus of the photo, the camera, which is framed by his hands. It’s a brilliant piece of composition.

But there is another element to the photograph.

It is the connection between the photographer’s eyes and the Elmar lens of his M4 Leica, a third eye for him. And then this strong compositional line takes us to the lens hood that he holds under his pinky.

It’s a form of visual descant: eyes, lens, lens hood.

The remarkable thing is that such a brilliantly composed photograph looks completely natural.

Compare this photo with the one used by Terry Lane in an article on the photographer for the Sydney Morning Herald.

untitled 3

Cartier-Bresson would have hated it.

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