There is one domain which photography has won away from painting – or so it is claimed – and that is portraiture. Faced with the camera, people proffer their best “profile” to posterity. It is their hope, blended with a certain magic fear, to outlive themselves in this portrait, and here they give us a hold. The first impression we have of a face is frequently correct; if to this first impression others are added by further acquaintance, the better we know the person the harder it becomes to pick out the essential qualities. One of the touching features of portraiture is that it reveals the permanence of mankind, even if only in the family album. We must respect the surroundings which provide the subject’s true setting, while avoiding all artifice which destroys the authentic image. The mere presence of the photographer and his camera affects the behavior of the “victim”. Massive apparatus and flash bulbs prevent the subject from being himself.

February 22, 1968.

The World of Henri Cartier-Bresson by Henri Cartier-Bresson

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