Cartier-Bresson inspires new photography show

In a nice curatorial twist, Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour takes one of the master black and white photographer’s most famous adages – “the decisive moment” – and reveals how contemporary colour photographers have made the concept their own

Joel Meyerowitz, Madison Avenue, New York City, 1975. Archival Pigment Print. © Joel Meyerowitz 2012. Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC

In a nice curatorial twist, Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour takes one of the master black and white photographer’s most famous adages – “the decisive moment” – and reveals how contemporary colour photographers have made the concept their own…

Opening on November 8 at Somerset House in London, A Question of Colour is the Positive View Foundation‘s inaugural show, and features ten black and white Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs alongside over 75 colour works by 15 international photographers.

Boris Savelev, Dog, Moscow, 2007, 164 x 110 cm. Multi-layered pigment print on gesso-coated aluminium. © Boris Savelev. Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery

Cartier-Bresson’s term for the brief “decisive” moment when a photographer decides to capture a particular scene became the title of his 1952 book that featured a portfolio of 126 images. His work is widely regarded as setting the foundations for the development of documentary and street photography.

According to the show’s curator, William E. Ewing, the exhibition “will show how Cartier-Bresson, in spite of his skeptical attitude regarding the artistic value of colour photography, nevertheless exerted a powerful influence over photographers who took up the new medium and who were determined to put a personal stamp on it.”

Cartier-Bresson’s criticisms of colour work in fact spurred on a new generation, says Ewing. “[The exhibition] simultaneously pays homage to a master who felt that black and white photography was the ideal medium, and could not be bettered, and to a group of photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries who chose the path of colour and made, and continue to make, great strides.”

As a preview to the exhibition we have included a couple of Cartier-Bresson images from the show below (the ten photographs in the show have not been exhibited in the UK before) and a small selection of the colour work which will form part of this extensive, and what looks to be exhilarating, photography exhibition.

Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour runs until January 27 2013 at Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA. Admission is free. More details at

Karl Baden, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, 2009. 40.64 x 54.19 cm. Archival Inkjet. © Karl Baden

Jeff Mermelstein, Untitled (Art Gallery Window, New York), 1996. 20 x 16 in. Chromogenic Print. © Jeff Mermelstein. Courtesy Rick Wester Fine Art, New York

Harry Gruyaert, Belgium, Flanders region, Province of Brabant, 1988, 36 x 24 cm. Pigments ink on Canson Baryta Photographique Pure White 310/m2. © Harry Gruyaert

Andy Freeberg, Sean Kelly, Art Basel Miami 2010. Artist: Kehinde Wiley. 63 x 43 cm. Pigment ink print © Andy Freeberg. Courtesy Kopeikin Gallery

Carolyn Drake, Breeze, Zhetisay Kazakhstan, 2009. 30.48 x 20.32 cm. Digital Light Jet print. © Carolyn Drake 2012

Ernst Haas, New York City, USA, 1981. Chromogenic archival print, 28 x 35.5 cm. © Ernst Haas Estate, New York

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Harlem, New York, 1947. Gelatin silver print / printed 1970s. Image: 29.1 x 19.6 cm / Paper: 30.4 x 25.4 cm. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, Courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brooklyn, New York, 1947. Gelatin silver print / printed in 2007. Image: 19.8 x 29.8 cm / Paper: 22.9 x 30.4 cm. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, Courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson


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