Henri Cartier-Bresson. The Compass in the Eye


The photographer, artist and film director Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908–2004) was a widely travelled, cosmopolitan observer of world events. Even during his lifetime, Henri Cartier-Bresson, more than any other 20th-century photographer, was regarded as the personification of modern photography.

He always emphasised that his passion was not for photography per se, but for life, and that he saw himself not as a traveller but as an observer of events, who sojourned in various different cultures.

Henri Cartier-Bresson studied painting with the cubist André Lhote, was influenced by the surrealists around André Breton and took inspiration from the philosophy of Zen Buddhism. He influenced generations of photographers through the aesthetic of his prolific photographic oeuvre and his penetrating thoughts on the theory and practice of photography. His book “Images à la Sauvette” (English title: “The Decisive Moment”), published in 1952, is one of the most-quoted volumes in the history of photography. In 1947 he co-founded Magnum Photos, an agency that became a benchmark for social commitment in photographic journalism as well as for highest photographic quality.

The exhibition takes us on a journey into Cartier-Bresson’s photographic cosmos, presenting 214 photos taken by him over a period of five decades in three highly dissimilar countries – the USA, India and the Soviet Union – during important phases of their history.

The exhibition is being presented in cooperation with Magnum Photos and the Fondation Henri-Cartier-Bresson.