Last week, I found the 1973 Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary, “The Decisive Moment.” It features not only many of his most famous photos, but also his commentary as voice over. As a canonized Master of street photography and co-founder of Magnum, of course he could shoot. But, wow, can he talk a good game too! Upon watching the film on YouTube, I couldn’t help but pause to type out some of his impassioned viewpoints.
In 1952, the Frenchman Henri Cartier-Bresson—street photography pioneer and perhaps its most influential master—published his book Images à la sauvette. Loosely translated, it means “images on the run.”
The book’s English edition title was alternatively chosen as The Decisive Moment, thereby giving street photography its most definitive and well-known catch phrase. That phrase, co-opted by Cartier-Bresson, was originally inspired by the 17th century Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal de Retz, who wrote, “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.” The book stands alongside Robert Frank’s The Americans as arguably the two most essential and important works in street photography, if not photography in general.