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Science and Media Museum

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This exhibition celebrated the centenary of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s birth with a selection of rare vintage works drawn from his famous scrapbook and printed by the photographer himself.

French-born Henri Cartier-Bresson’s approach to his work and photography has been enormously influential on generations of photographers, yet much remains unknown about his early work.

In the 1930s, Bresson’s memorable photographs featured in prominent European magazines and newspapers; his first exhibition was held in New York, in a small private gallery, in 1933. In 1940, during the Second World War, Bresson was captured and imprisoned by the Germans. Following rumours of his demise, the Museum of Modern Art in New York began planning a posthumous exhibition.

Bresson, however, escaped and reached France in 1943. Towards the end of the war, Beaumont Newhall discovered that Bresson was still alive, and they began to plan a new show together. Bresson started to print his work, subsequently arranging the photographs in sequences in a scrapbook. This book would form the basis of the 1947 MoMA exhibition that launched him as a world-renowned photographer. In 1947, Bresson also founded Magnum Photos, a cooperative agency that has since become a worldwide force in documentary photography.

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, set up to preserve the work and memory of the photographer, brought together the photographs from the album with original covers, pages and related contextual material to create a rare exhibition of vintage works printed by Bresson. The museum was the only UK venue to host this exhibition, which also featured a selection of larger prints from the seminal 1947 MoMA show.

Hyères, France, 1932, Henri Cartier-Bresson © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos / Collection Fondation HCB
Hyères, France, 1932, Henri Cartier-Bresson © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos / Collection Fondation HCB

Videos

Martine Franck and Agnès Sire on Cartier-Bresson's scrapbook
President of Fondation HCB Martine Franck talks about Henri Cartier-Bresson

Buy the book

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Scrapbook