Photographic Inspiration for 2017

If you need some inspiration for your photography this coming year you could do worse, a lot worse, than spending 18 minutes of your valuable time watching this video narrated by the iconic photographer Henri Carter-Bresson.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment was made in 1973 by Scholastic Magazines, Inc. and the International Center of Photography. The film includes a selection of Cartier-Bresson’s iconic photographs, along with the great man’s own words.

In 18 minutes and 29 seconds Cartier-Bresson manages to distil more photographic wisdom than you could get from a lifetime of reading books on the subject. If you cannot afford even 18 minutes here are five (there are many more) fabulous quotes that should inspire your photography in 2017.

On his approach to photography:

  • If you have to correct it, it’s the next picture.
  • Life is once, and forever.
  • What I want and what I’m looking for, that’s my business.
  • The greatest joy for me is geometry. It’s a sensuous pleasure.
  • The difference between a good picture and a mediocre picture, it’s a question of millimetres.
  • Photographs I care for, it’s a photograph we can look for more than two minutes. but it’s extremely long. A photograph you can look at over and over again? Not many.
  • Sometimes people ask how many pictures do you take, do you take many pictures a day? There’s no rule.
  • In photography you’ve got to be quick, quick, quick. Like an animal and its prey.
  • For me it’s a physical pleasure photography, it doesn’t take much brains, it doesn’t take any brains, it takes sensitivity a finger and two legs.
  • I never think, I act quick, bumph!
  • If you look for inspiration nothing comes. It’s by enriching yourself and living.
  • There’s no new ideas in the world, there’s only a new arrangement of things.
  • Anyone has done ten good photographs in his life. What is interesting is the consistency, to keep on, on, on.
  • [photography] is a way of shouting, the way you feel.

On making portraits:

  • The difference between a portrait and a snapshot is that in a portrait the person agrees to be photographed.
  • It’s like a biologist and his microscope, when you study a thing it doesn’t react the same way as when it’s not studied.
  • You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt which is not an easy thing.
  • You see people naked through the viewfinder, you see them stripped naked and it’s sometimes very embarrassing.
  • After a certain age you’ve got the face you deserve I think.

On travelling:

  • I like to live in a place, I don’t like to go for [a] short [time].
  • To interest people on far away places, to shock them, to delight them, is not too difficult. The most difficult thing is on your own country.
  • Places where I am all the time, I know too much and not enough.

For more background information on the film check out the Open Culture write-up here.

For me I intend to revisit this film and these words to give me some inspiration for my photography in 2017.

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