Henri Cartier-Bresson – Somerset House

‘The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most.’  -John Ruskin

Henri Cartier-Bresson is one of the undisputed masters of photography.

During his colourful career (founding Magnum, documenting the liberation of Paris, witnessing the partition of India – we could go on) he aimed to capture the fabled ‘decisive moment’, but always in monochrome. Bresson labelled the tentative emergence of colour photography as ‘something indigestible, the negation of all photography’s three-dimensional values’ He challenged his contemporaries and successors to prove him wrong.

Curator, and photography expert William A. Ewing places Bresson’s compact and dramatic vignettes next to a varied collection of over 75 colour photographs that span the last sixty years. Such a wide array of pictures might seem misled or confused; here they are all doing one thing, proving Bresson wrong with style and aplomb.

Karl Baden photographs through car windows, framing his subject with an automobile instead of the viewfinder. Andy Freeberg takes pictures of art, often turning his lens onto the dealers, art technicians, and artists themselves. Harry Gruyeartand Saul Leiter were both using colour in the 1950s and their chromogenic prints stand strong in the digital age.

Colour is a powerful tool. Here it is manipulated, exploited, accentuated and diminished. Are the artists directly responding to Bresson? Maybe. Probably not. But who cares. It works, the whole exhibition works. And we would gladly go again.

Works from Melanie Einzig, Carolyn Drake, Robert Walker, Ernst Haas, Alex Webb, Jeff Mermelstein are also included.

Carolyn Drake, Suburbia
Saul Leiter, Reflection, 1958
Ernst Haas, Paris France, 1954
Melanie Einzig, Untitled, 2011,
Karl Baden, Honda Accord, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2010

-Megan Conery

Henri Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour is showing at Somerset House 8 November, 2012 – 27 January, 2013

Admission: Free