Henri-Cartier BrenssonHenri Cartier-Bresson, the French photographer, was born in 1908 and later studied painting a number of years before gaining interest in photography around the 1930’s. He began photographing with a small hand-held Leica rarely using lens filters and developing his photographs on gelatin silver prints. Cartier-Bresson had a “remarkable ability to create images that invested moments in time with enduring mystery or humor” (Rosenblum 512).
Naomi also points out that Cartier-Bresson approached actuality with an intuitive sense for forms ripe with emblematic significance and an eye for precise visual organization.
His work portrays a lively visual balance which adds to the overall meaning of an event through the arrangement of people and objects in a scene. In Arena, Valencia 1933 many of his techniques and style come into play. He incorporates geometric figures with his subjects to give the photograph form and balance. To the right is what appears to be a guard of some sort peering through a frame within the gate with a look of discontent or anger. The light forms a glare off his eyeglasses which somewhat mimics the half painted circle on the gate.
To the left is a man which momentarily pauses to look back as if here were being followed. The door which his hand rests upon also contain squares which balance out the square in the gate. He is also out of focus which makes his identity all that more ambiguous. But the one thing that seems to stand out is the half circle with the number seven inside.
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It appears to divide the photograph into two totally separate entities. In Arena, Valencia we get the feeling that a chase was momentarily frozen in time to let the viewer decide who is the antagonist or the protagonist. The man to the left comes through as an escapee or a runaway due to the fact that he is out of focus and his gestures reveal a sense that he is in a hurry. The man to the righ has an authoritative look on his face and his hat emphasizes his identity all that much more. The expression on his face reveal something about his state of being at that precise moment. We can only begin to see the anger by the way his jaw is locked, his nostrils are open and his eyebrows are raised.
Naomi points out that the images made in Spain in 1933, among them Arena, Valencia, suggest the uneasy tensions that eventually erupted into civil war, even though their intent was poetic rather than political. Naomi states that Henri Cartier-Bresson has come to be regarded as one of the seminal visions of the 20 th century. Throughout a career of some 35 years, he “consistently upheld the primacy of individuality and spontaneity in the photographic process; maintaining that you have to be yourself and forget yourself in order to discover the exact instant and position from which the photographer might be able to extract a moment of meaning from ongoing existence” (Newhall 485).