«Analysis of Henri Cartier-Bresson's Photo "Children Playing on the Ruins"» - Free Essay Paper

Analysis of Henri Cartier-Bresson's Photo

Henri Cartier-Bresson appears to be a globally well-known French photographer. He travelled around the globe being a pioneer in photojournalism. Henri was regarded as one of the key artists of the 20th century. Henri Cartier-Bresson is known as a humanist photographer and a renowned candid photography master, and an early user of 35 mm film. He assisted in developing street photo and acceptingly reproduced a concept of the imminence of a decisive moment. The work of this photographer has impacted a lot of other artists. The current paper will analyse Henri Cartier-Bresson’s gelatine silver print “Children Playing in Ruins, Seville” created in 1933.

“Decisive Moment”

Some facts reveal that Henri Cartier-Bresson comprised numerous of the world’s greatest occasions starting from the Spanish Civil War and ending with French uprisings in 1968. Therefore, he appears to be one of the most outstanding and renowned photographers in the history. He is known for catching some moments at “the decisive moment”, which stands for releasing the shutter with the perfect timing, at the exact fraction of the second. Henri Cartier-Bresson did not observe photojournalism in a form of taking pictures of well-known people or political leaders. It helped him to focus on documenting the lives of everyday common people and the individuals who appeared to be affected by the situations that journalists wrote about. In fact, Cartier-Bresson’s work appeared to be revolutionary due to the fact that he utilised a small, portable camera. It provided him with a possibility to document a decisive moment in time. The spontaneity, together with the non-replicated and non-staged notice into the human nature, which it captured, would become the distinctive constituent for the majority of Cartier-Bresson’s images.

A number of contemporary photographers are connected towards creating a new approach to intentional photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson is probably a leading European exponent of this direction. He, by his denial of the academic artistic or salon taste of modern art photography has taken consistency of photos, which in their originality, elegance and truth endured the works of art within their own radical aesthetic. Starting from the discovery of photo, over a century ago, there has been the inverse confusion as to its effect and function. At first, there was the frivolous sense, attaining almost to fright concerning the fact that the camera-lens had spoiled any future for a representational painting, making all further realistic rendering performed by the hand and brush futile. At the same time and a little later, particular painters preoccupied with fundamental issues in the arrangement of light and form (encompassing Corot, Degas, and Eakins) utilised even the accidents of a photograph (the shortage of a pointed focus, consolidated perspective) as innovative pictorial implements. Even the candid creation and composition of the snapshot, with figures lacerating arbitrarily by the frame, was dexterously utilised by Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec. Nevertheless, the historical matter demonstrates that it was Manet who had introduced the apparition of a momentous accident, accommodated from the ribbons of Japanese woodcuts, carved to suit on the slim posts of teahouses. Subsequently, when it was recognised that easel-painters had nothing to fear and even much to obtain from the camera. Therefore, the reputation of the painter could sustain unscathed, a school of salon-photographers endeavoured to imitate or compete painterly compositions. From the first usage of the camera, the line of salon-photographers was paralleled by men whose candour of vision acknowledged the arrangement for its inimitable services. It generated something rather indispensable with it. No matter how farsighted the photographer, the constituents of composition, texture, atmosphere and calibre could not be fused into an image with a continuous life of its own, equalling the synthesis made possible by the greatest painting. In addition, photographs even failed to be persuasive glassed and framed decorations; and the appendage of hand-painted tinting did not help. Photographs were directly post cards and simulacra of paint. Bad taste accompanied the more ambitious ones; and soon photography as a popular craft was expressed in the promiscuous anonymity of journalism. However, in the masses of journalistic shots, a few wonderful human images emerged on a frequent basis. If it was typically occasional, the photos were efficient for their spontaneous appeal. Moreover, these pictures have never failed in exciting and affecting present-day easel-painters, who, similarly to Vermeer and Manet before them, can always be shifted by the splendid accidents of light and the surprise of abruptly stated frames.

In the early 1930s, when purist photography had obtained domination over the formerly ascendant international Pictorialism movement, Cartier-Bresson generated an innovative aesthetic movement. It actually eclipsed both styles. This movement is encapsulated in the appellation outlined as the decisive moment. This term consists of two elements. Firstly, the photography is supposed to incorporate an essential content. In regards with Cartier-Bresson, the majority of his pictures frequently concern the human condition. Secondly, the above-mentioned content is supposed to be settled in a severe and austere composition. Therefore, the line, form, tonality, texture, contrast, and geometric proportions convey a magnitude equivalent to, but inseparable from, the content. In regards with Cartier-Bresson, the decisive-moment photo stands for “the synchronous acknowledgement in a particle of a second of the essentiality of an occasion together with a detailed and strict arrangement of forms”. Thus, during the 1930s, Cartier-Bresson generated this method of photographic pronouncement and promoted it to an incomparable and unsurpassed level by innumerable would-be imitators. Numerous factors contributed to this accomplishment. Firstly, the camera Leica 2 discovery, which Cartier-Bresson called the extension of his eye has been enlisted among them. Secondly, these factors incorporate his artistic education with the Cubist painter Andro Lhote. Thirdly, they included photographer’s obstinacy for life ad travelling, combined with the rebellion, ignited by his connection with the Surrealist movement of Andre Breton and Cartier-Bresson’s eager and enthusiastic reading of Marcel Proust, Romain Rolland, James Joyce, Arthur Rimbaud, and others. Finally, they encompassed his pungent physical depictions. All of these and other resources helped Cartier-Bresson in showing the world the potentiality and prospects of the 35mm camera in making pictures outstanding concerning their formal excellence and revelatory content.

Analysis of the Photo “Children Playing on the Ruins”

Henri Cartier-Bresson organised a tour in Southern Europe and the Maghreb in 1932. He travelled with his 35 mm Leica, as it had to be a formative and creative tour. This travel appointed the regulations of art for not merely a 25-year old photographer but for a century of photojournalists who followed him as well. The artist was capable of taking the photo “Children Playing in Ruins” in 1933. The picture appears to be a constituent of the series outlined as “Children Playing in the Ruins”. The cause for capturing this photo stands for a form of photojournalism as the photographer desired to portray the effects war had on people. In fact, this series was not appointed to focusing on the solitude and isolation of the subjects. Nevertheless, a lot of images in the set and this photo, in particular, create the sensation that this is the case for the people living in the ruins of the war where they had their homes and had lost people. Cartier-Bresson was always informative and profound in his depictions. It was not completely apparent what the precise place of the taken photo was or what the reason of the ruins appearance was. Henri Cartier-Bresson’s contact sheets demonstrate that he actually selected the picture, which was among the first one he made during that event. The photographer’s accustomed journalistic eye was working, revealing young-looking robustness sprouting out of moulded debris. Nevertheless, soon afterwards, the Spanish Civil War broke out, negatively impacting numerous cities Cartier-Bresson visited. Seville appeared to be among the cities, where the first shots were fired. Therefore, the photo depicting its ruined buildings and mutilate children became connected with the terrors of that war, even despite the fact that it had been created three years earlier. Peacetime is different from war, but not necessarily easier.

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In fact, this photo appears to be one of the most striking ones that Cartier-Bresson was capable of capturing with the lenses of his camera. This photo has a solid symbolic sense and much more concealed language, standing for a pure sample of the speech of photography. The paradoxical and contradictory constituents of the image make it even more magnetising and hypnotising. A child stands for a symbol of innocence. When a photo encloses more than one kid smiling and playing around, it provides a sense of harmony. On the other hand, the irony and cynics of the picture stands out when this harmony comes into tension with the environment of this photograph. The children are playing in ruined buildings. They play in such manner as if they are ignorant of their background. Their innocence embedded deeply within seems to eclipse and overshadow the terrific presence of reality. This photo was capable of catching a moment, which can never be fully explained through words, as it portrays the peace within destruction. A fragmentary message, which Cartier-Bresson attempts to communicate across that photo, could stand for the power of the child’s innocence and how it is repulsed in the world surrounding them. The artist is capable of utilising the cracked wall as a frame and demonstrates a child smiling. It occurs regardless the fact that the setting around him excretes a complicated vibe of different issues. Nevertheless, the children’s reason to smile appears to be a highly powerful message. It can be interpreted in multiple ways. This photo can stand for a message, which symbolises hope. It can also be a sending to demonstrate why this violence (war) should not remain. It can stand for a mere message to reveal that the child's smile is meant to be sustained in a world of peace and harmony. Therefore, Cartier-Bresson appears to be successful in making the viewer live through the world of irony by looking at this picture. This photo is simply genius in being ironic and symbolic at the same time.

Cartier-Bresson’s picture generates a restless feeling by the way the photograph has been staged. It makes the viewer look straightly on the two boys in the foreground. The facial expression of the one situated in the right corner, suggests the spectator a feeling of loss. He actually appears to be the most translucent in creating a ghostly impact and an idea of the older boy being lonely and sad. The lighting is utilised smartly in the image due to the fact that the shade on the kid who appears to be concerned generates a dark and disturbing feeling. The gaze of the boy is directed to the blurred individual in the corner of the photo. The vectors of the photograph appear to have a zigzag effect. It occurs due to the fact that the viewer is drawn to the kid in the foreground, who directs to the other one and then falls on the walls, finally taking the spectator down to the bottom of the photo. It is suggesting something that might be in the distance of this picture.

The decisive part of Cartier-Bresson’s specific process occurs not in the mechanism in his hands but in the vision inside of his head, meaning in that right eye. In accordance with Cartier-Bresson, it looks out onto the exterior world; and that left eye views inside to his personal world. The perception liquates on what the artist sees, when and where, and how he feels regarding it. Cartier-Bresson’s photographs are captured in the middle standard of a run of actions, a specimen slice or symbolic fragment, snapped from a series. His early shot of children playing in ruins of plaster walls whose holes seem torn out of the paper on which they are printed appeared to be prognostication of an inevitable decade of disaster. The author professionally uses framing for composition. Everything concerning this photo is marvellous, encompassing the predominantly white tones, which provides the picture with enjoyable ligghtness and airiness. There is no other photograph, which has been capable of providing such a convincing and vigorous report of amalgamated innocence and destruction, of fun and fright. The photo reveals the discreet Parisian lightness as well as a Norman rigor in Cartier-Bresson’s individuality, which he transfers to this specific print. It also incorporates its cheeriness, his emotionless scrutiny, his obstinate attention and self- expurgation. Cartier-Bresson does not permit viewers to be aware of any reminders of the depicted conditions or their habitual defences, he puts them at ease, making them rather convenient, reducing their bustles, incorporating them profoundly in their individual actions. The photographer takes his pictures, while they continue their conversations and playing as if nothing had happened. He has his follow-through in the genuine procedure without lacerating the ordinary current of atmosphere by a self-responsive or automatic flirtation with the camera in regards with viewers or subjects. His best shot appears to be discovered instead of being contrived; and Cartier-Bresson does not perform this in order to get the systematic avulsion or rearrangement of an interior in attempts of rendering it as more characteristic and picturesque.

 Avoidance of any factitious of formal effects, even those, which were recently evolved in the mode of the candid camera, the author equips a practically implied comprehension between Cartier-Bresson himself and his viewers. It actually assists in defeating the clichés of photography. He never attempted to utilise the maximum of the camera through the light and lens, by discarding the majority of things, which were typically counted for sensitive arrangement and clever illumination. He addressed his subject humbly with the preoccupied intensity. Probably no illustrious group has ever been documented with so much puncturing and psychological illumination, unless it was by Nadar.

All of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s pictures, which were taken on a 35 mm Leica camera, are black and white. The prosperity of the analysed photography benefits seriously from his usage of black and white colours. In fact, the walls and ruins, where the children are playing make the kids, shadows, and silhouettes protrude much darker and murkier in contrast to their stiff white colour. Despite the fact that this picture might initially seem to be staged, such things as the deliquescent hand of the child on the right side and the child in the front, who is not even looking at the camera vividly demonstrate the following fact. This photography genuinely does capture the emotions of kids in that accurate and precise moment in time.

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The photography “Children Playing in the Ruins” mainly appears to be a display in a form of a constituent of an exhibition at the Fotografiska Museet in Stockholm. It has been entitled “The Man, the Image & the World”, which appears to be one of his most famous photograph exhibitions. The photo was taken in Seville, Spain, in 1933. Andre Breton, who is a well-known surrealist who was among the first person to utilise pictures in his books, used this photograph in order to decorate his chapter on the Spanish Civil War as early as 1937 in Mad Love. Many other people also followed this tendency; and even the above-mentioned author concerned that this picture was created in the aftermath of the war and not before it. This picture illustrates a group of young boys playing in the remains of a ruined construction. The giant hole in a wall and the view through it helps Cartier-Bresson in creating alluring and beautiful contrast as well as profundity (deep insight) of field in his photo. The image demonstrates that the majority of boys, who are situated close to the camera, have their eyes fixed on it. In addition, the viewer is capable of observing the sorrow, sadness, and innocent fascination in the children’s eyes. A number of kids situated in the background are absolutely uninfluenced and unaffected by the picture being taken and proceed in playing with one another in the ruins. Regardless the fact that the children portrayed in the image are rather youthful, they are acting without any specific supervision. It appears as if that their behaviour is quite normal. The picture demonstrates that these children have highly rigid and mature expressions on their faces. It looks as if even regardless the fact that they are so young, they have encountered sufficient deprivation and faced enough disturbances to make them independent enough to operate in a much older manner. All of these facts demonstrate that Cartier-Bresson is capable of capturing the emotions of these kids in a wonderful manner in his image, making the viewer curious to wonder what life must be like for this group.

Therefore, “Children Playing in the Ruins” is a remarkable photography as it is not only well-photographed via the contrast and profundity of field, but it is also thought-stimulating. It is due to the fact that the expression on the children’s faces leaves the inquiring viewer wonder about what is going on behind those eyes. This picture attractively illustrates the guiltlessness and innocence of children despite the fact that their asperities become apparent after observing their faces.


The current paper demonstrates that Henri Cartier-Bresson appears to be a remarkable photographer. It analyses his picture outlined as “Children Playing on the Ruins”. This photograph was captured by a small portable camera. It was not staged, which makes it highly realistic. The photographer is famous for his decisive moment, which stands for a possibility to be in the appropriate place and time when something interesting is happening. This photo is the best example of tripping the shutter in the exact instance when an ideal composition is obtained. Everything regarding the picture is marvellous, encompassing the predominantly white tones, supplying it with airiness and lightness. The photo is striking in the fact that it is well-photographed through the contrast and field depth. In addition, it also appears to be highly thought-provoking, as the manner in which children’s faces are captured makes the viewer wonder what is happening behind those eyes.

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