Travels, paradoxes of Cartier-Bresson at Vienna's Kunsthaus

18th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

The famed French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson loved travels and paradoxes, two themes brought together in a new exhibit at the Kunsthaus gallery of Vienna.

Spanning half a century from the 1930s to the late 1970s, some 200 pictures on display retrace Cartier-Bresson's many journeys to North America, India and the former Soviet Union.

"In the power of Cartier-Bresson's pictures, one can feel the photographer's long preparation for his various destinations," said Kunsthaus director Franz Patay at a press conference.

A life-long motto for the photographer is projected on a wall of the exhibit: "To capture the emotion provided by the subject and the beauty of a shape."

The three destinations chosen by the gallery are no accident.

"He always had a taste for paradox," said curator Andreas Hirsch.

"He came from a family of industrialists, but he preferred to dedicate himself to the study of art."

Thus, the United States, the industrialised superpower as captured during repeated visits between 1930 and 1960, contrasts with the future industrial power India in 1947-48.

The former communist Soviet Union provides a further comparison to capitalist America: "He quickly became interested in socialism and communism, starting in the 1930s," noted Andrea Holzherr, from the Magnum photo agency, which helped set up the exhibit with the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation.

In 1954, the Frenchman was the first Western photographer to set foot on Soviet soil, just a few months after Stalin's death, and his pictures were among the first to be published in the Western press.

Through his portraits of celebrities like Martin Luther King, the Mahatma Gandhi or Truman Capote, but also through his pictures of strangers and depictions of daily life, whether in the Caucasus or in Massachusetts, three societies come to life through Cartier-Bresson's lens.

A less well-known side of the photographer, as filmmaker, is also on display with several of his documentary films made between 1969 and 1970, including "California Impressions."

The exhibit runs until February 26.

© 2011 AFP

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