"Tete a Tete" Portraits by Henri Cartiere-Bresson

My latest library find is  "Tete a Tete" by one of the greatest photographers of all times - HCB (Henri Cartier-Bresson). HCB is more known for his street photographs than portraiture. It was interesting to find a book concentrating on this less known part of his photographic legacy in my small, local Fremantle library. E. H. Gombrich in his introduction concerns himself more with the concept of a "good" portrait than with work of HCB. I quite liked it actually as he asks some really interesting questions in the process. What is likeness? Is it an expression most common to a person or is one allowing a glimpse at their soul or true character? The Bresson's idea of the Decisive Moment is also evident in his portraits. From the photographs it's clear he spends a lot of time with his subjects, waiting for a moment when they reveal themselves. Another thing characteristic to him is his aversion to cropping. All photographs show film rebates (borders) - and the reason for it is quite a puzzle to me. I haven't come across an explanation by HCB himself and what others say about it doesn't convince me. I think it was self imposed restriction and it's only goal was just to restrict. Maybe at first it was a matter of discipline or training but it must have evolved into a restriction that inspires creativity. Limitations simply force us to rethink our old approach and try new things. Can't quite believe it? Well, write a Haiku and see what happens.

His drawings, to which he dedicated the later years of his life, show no borders at all and no background. It's all about facial expressions and features. I find it understandable - pen and paper is a different medium with different challenges.

The photographs themselves are very contextual. It's always a person in his/hers environment, surrounded by objects familiar and personal: books, pipes, glasses, pets, desks. There is often a lot of negative space and sometimes the main subject occupies only a very small portion of the frame. The names under the photographs are very big and known, faces not so much: Albers Camus, Truman Capote, Dalai Lama, Coco Chanell, Picasso, M. Monroe, JP Sartre and many, many more. The thing is, for me, 98% of these portraits aren't great photographs but photographs of great people. It's the names that stop me and not the pictures.

If you look closely you'll find a few images with a missed focus - they must be only photographs of them or only photographs by HCB.

I might have committed a few sacrileges here but well, this is what I see there. Agree with me or prove me wrong but do have a look at "Tete a Tete" by Henri Cartiere-Bresson. I also apologize for mistakes and misspelled words. I am sure there is a few there, I know I should edit and edit but I hate it so much that it hurts.

Piotrek Ziolkowski