Since Henri Cartier-Bresson’s death, there have been a number of obituaries published in US and European papers. But it is this one by Claude Cookman, a professor of mine at Indiana University, that is quite special.
He says of Cartier-Bresson:
“What is likely to be forgotten is that Cartier-Bresson’s use of the Leica showed modern photojournalism a new ethic. Because large-format cameras used holders with only two sheets of film, earlier photojournalists commonly staged their pictures. In contrast, Cartier-Bresson practiced unobtrusiveness as the route to capturing unposed photographs. This allowed him to respect his subjects while also obtaining natural, revealing images. His unobtrusive approach allowed him to take and keep photographs of the assassinated Mohandas Gandhi, lying in state in January 1948. (The Life photographer Margaret Bourke-White, who photographed Gandhi with a large camera and flash, had her film confiscated by the Mahatma’s devotees who considered her actions disrespectful.)”