Monday, 12 November 2012

Cartier-Bresson - A Question of Colour

Given that I'm someone who isn't fond of black and white photography, and who thinks that processing colour photos into black and white sucks the life out of most of them, why would I be reviewing an exhibition featuring the photos of one of the most well-known street photographers who shot almost exclusively in black and white?

The answer is in the nature of the exhibition. Henri Cartier-Bresson thought that black and white photography couldn't be bettered. The curator of the exhbition, William E. Ewing, sees the exhibition as a 'challenge and response' - the photos of the master showing the 'decisive moment' that he was so good at capturing, and some of the photographers that Mr Ewing considers as making 'great strides' towards achieving the same end using colour photography.

The exhibition includes a number of black and white prints of some of Cartier-Bresson's work, though not necessarily his best-known, interspersed with prints by other photographers from different eras, including the modern.

It seems to me that one of the best examples of Cartier-Bresson's 'decisive moment' is the photo of a man leaping over a puddle, titled _Derriere la Gare Saint-Lazare_ which can be seen here. Yet I don't recall seeing a print of this anywhere in the exhibition. In fact, this 'decisive moment' seems to be missing from some of the photos on display, both Cartier-Bresson's and those by other photographers.

No matter, this isn't the main point of the exhibition.

Since admission to the exhibition is free, it's well worth the journey to Somerset House to make your own mind up as to whether the curator has fulfilled his aim - for it is his and not the aim of the photographers featured in the exhibition.

People with mobility impairments should note that the exhibition is at the south side of Somerset House, across a lot of very bumpy tiles from the main entrance. There is a lift that goes from the Embankment straight up to the exhibition.

Cartier-Bresson - A Question of Colour
Runs to 27 January 2013
Free admission
Somerset House
South Building  Strand, London WC2R 1LA

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