Candid Photographers to Know

The father of photojournalism that believed in no-flash photography, and another who was hard-hitting and wanted to capture the harshness of humanity: Henri Cartier-Bresson and Arthur “Weegee” Fellig.

There was this haunting moment back a couple of years ago, and I keep thinking back to that instance. There was a woman, distinctly separate from the crowd on the streets and she was looking at the window-front of a Valentino shop on Newbury Street. She was not looking into the store, in fact, she was looking at her own reflection, and turned directly towards it, to see herself better. I remember she was extremely skinny and rather weathered looking, with an Audrey Hepburn style hair updo, and equally styled, vintage dress. The moment I wish I had captured was of her lifting her hand to fix her hair and look at her reflection while smoking a cigarette.

Photo of the location, but not the same time period. *Sigh*

It was just, slightly tragic in my mind. There is something about this obsession with beauty that strikes me as a fruitless hobby, marked with so much effort. This moment in time just invited a lot of thought for me as the onlooker. Who was she? Was she meeting someone? When did she start smoking?! Is the crazy house looking for her? (Okay, just sayin’ – lighten up!)

It’s moments like this one, that are candid and beautifully un-staged. There is a whole world of interesting people out there that have an effortless story to tell.

So today, we’re looking into… [horrible, off-beat, struggling drum-roll please]… Candid Photography!

Featuring Henri Cartier-Bresson and Arthur Fellig.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: French photographer, considered Father of Photojournalism… master of the Candid photograph, developed Street Photography style. He started out studying painting.

From a Wikipedia article regarding Cartier Bresson:

Cartier-Bresson exclusively used Leica 35 mm rangefinder cameras equipped with normal 50 mm lenses or occasionally a wide-angle for landscapes.[10] He often wrapped black tape around the camera’s chrome body to make it less conspicuous. With fast black and white films and sharp lenses, he was able to photograph almost by stealth to capture the events. No longer bound by a huge 4×5 press camera or an awkward medium format twin-lens reflex camera, miniature-format cameras gave Cartier-Bresson what he called “the velvet hand [and] the hawk’s eye.”[citation needed] He never photographed with flash, a practice he saw as “[i]mpolite…like coming to a concert with a pistol in your hand.”[10]

He believed in composing his photographs in the viewfinder, not in the darkroom. He showcased this belief by having nearly all his photographs printed only at full-frame and completely free of any cropping or other darkroom manipulation.[1] Indeed, he emphasized that his prints were not cropped by insisting they include the first millimetre or so of the unexposed clear negative around the image area resulting, after printing, in a black border around the positive image.

Cartier-Bresson worked exclusively in black and white, other than a few unsuccessful attempts in color. He disliked developing or making his own prints.[1] He said: “I’ve never been interested in the process of photography, never, never. Right from the beginning. For me, photography with a small camera like the Leica is an instant drawing.”[11]

Arthur Fellig aka Weegee: Austrian born, photojournalist. He published photo books and made short films. Makes me think of… paparazzi type in terms of attitude, but more behind the scenes and not rude, unkind or in your face. But that’s just my first taste.

From a NYTimes article regarding Weegee:

“His story is the story of a Jewish kid, son of a rabbi, who came with his family from Europe to New York City. Independent-minded, he noodled around, did the odd job, hit the flophouses. Then he discovered photography, and he became a man with a mission. Make that obsession. Scratch that: addiction.” NYTimes article by Holland Cotter.

Weegee claimed to fight for Humanism but as this writer puts it:  “In the end, some may feel betrayed by his meddling, but the drama of his work is still impressive and widely influential.” Wired by Brendan Seibel

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