Photography has undoubtedly become one of the most impressive and important visual arts of the 20th century, and affected other branches of art significantly. This is, perhaps, one of those arts that are little or not affected by technological progress, and it is only the talent and skill of an artist that matters. There lived many masters of photography, but there was one whose works depicted the entire 20th century with its contradictions and dramas as fully as nobody else managed to. The name of this artist was <b>Henri Cartier-Bresson, the founder of the famous Magnum agency, and one of the most outstanding photographers of all times.
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Among Henri Cartier-Bresson’s works, I especially enjoy the one titled “Political Meeting” made in Paris in 1953. It is a black and white image that depicts a large crowd of people, located in some kind of hangar or manufacturing facility, and a person who is going to hold a speech in front of them (or already is). The composition of the photo is built in such a way that the speaker’s lonely silhouette seems to be contrasted by the infinite crowd of people who gathered at the meeting. This impression is enforced by the lines of the building’s ceiling, which guide the viewer’s sight into the depth of the picture, to a tiny spot of the facility’s exit. The whole picture is sustained in shades of grey of various intensities; the darkest and the brightest spots are the speaker’s figure and the facility’s windows respectively.
The photograph possesses a strong emotional charge that is easily noticed from the first moments of looking at it. The people seem to be waiting for the orator to offer them a solution to a difficult problem. Perhaps it is a trade-union rally, or a strike. The speaker, in his turn, seems to be somewhat confused, and even overwhelmed by the crowd. It seems that H. Cartier-Bresson has depicted a moment of awkward silence, when the expectations of thousands of people are addressed to a single person, who is confused and does not know what to say. This is a subjective vision, though, and the situation might have developed in a different way.
In general, the photograph is a depiction of the atmosphere that was established in Europe after the Second World War. It was the time of big changes and social commotions, labor and liberty, hopes and difficulties, and H. Cartier-Bresson has captured it all in just one photo.
Critics globally value H. Cartier-Bresson’s photographs as a high standard. He continually managed to capture the essence of events or persons he pointed his camera at. His photos are not just images shot with professionalism, but are more like short stories, each with its own emotional charge and context. Cartier-Bresson had once said it was life itself, not photography, that interested him the most. And this is what can be easily seen when looking at any of his works.
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