Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Modern Century

I finally got around to looking at the book I picked up at MoMA from the the Henri Cartier-Bresson show. This show was outstanding. Over 300 photographs by the master, spanning his career. Actually, it was a bit overwhelming. That is why, not surprising, I decided to buy the book and view this collection of a his life's work from the leisure of my home.

We all know how great Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) was as a photographer. Looking at this incredible book, The Modern Century, is like holding greatness in one's hands. From the essays by Peter Galassi, chief curator for the department of photography at MoMA, to the superb reproductions of the photographs, this book is wonderful. It not only has the great photographs that has made Cartier-Bresson world famous; e.g. Sunday on the banks of the River Marne, 1938 it has surprises throughout. Photographs that are incredibly powerful but not as well known; e.g. Wrestlers on Independence Day, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 1958.

Sunday on the banks of the River Marne, 1938. © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

This book of Cartier-Bresson photographs is a masterpiece also because of the care in how it is assembled. It is more than a catalog of the exhibit and his oeuvre. The images are placed together in sections that are thematic. Then within each chapter the sequencing of photographs are very thoughtfully arranged to augment the story each individual image conveys. I found myself transfixed with each page to the next. Yes, the photographs are powerful, but credit must be awarded to the editors as well. This book is destined to become a great source for students of Cartier-Bresson, photojournalism, and the art of bookmaking.

This exhibit is on view at MoMA only until June 28. If you are in NYC or plan to visit, this show is a must see. If you miss the exhibition, there is always the book, which should be in your library any way.

More information: Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson