Tag Archives: Cartier-Bresson

Book reviews

Over the Christmas period I got a couple of library books to read. While both differ in their content, one is images only, the other is images and writing they were both worth some time reading through and making notes on.

Henri Cartier-Bresson ‘A propos de Paris’

Featuring a selection of Cartier-Bresson’s images of Paris, this spans a number of years and different subjects from the grand architecture of Notre Dame through to the people going about their business in the city.

All the images are monochrome and the captions for these are not found with the image but in a list at the rear of the book leaving the viewer to come to their own conclusions first on what they are seeing. When you do refer to the captions, there is very minimal information included, the majority don’t seem to have a name, just untitled, and where there is a line, it doesn’t provide much information to help ‘read’ the photograph. I also found the occasional blank page inserted between the images but it wasn’t clear why as they didn’t seem to be any pattern or obvious sections that needed this in place. I would have liked to have seen larger images as where there is a lot of smaller detail, its harder to make it out in a book compared to within an exhibition for example. It’s an interesting introduction to his work, but didn’t stand out to me and wasn’t something I’d find myself revisiting.

Approaching photography by Paul Hill

This book focuses very much on the reading and understanding of photographs as opposed to the traditional how to technical books. While there are references to compositional techniques and use of light and shadow for instance, these feature as an aid to understand the content and interpretation of the images.

Broken down into different chapters, Hill covers areas such as seeing and thinking photographically, self-expression, art and communication and forms of exhibiting from books through to galleries. Throughout the book, images from different photographers such as Chris Steele-Perkins and Bill Brandt are used to support the different sub topics. As an introduction to understanding what you see in photographs and also how to keep this in mind when taking your own, this is a good starter book and certainly one that the reader can come back to again and again. I noted a few relevant quotes down that will support my writings and assignments, as well as some new advice on captions, portfolios and exhibitions that I need to bear in mind for future reference. As a standalone the wide selection of images featured are also worth dipping into and more than worth looking at in their own right.

Highlights for me include:-

– Information on discerning themes within your photography

– Sequencing prints for display

– Finding your own voice

This is a book which not only acts as an introduction that is easy to read and understand but also smaller pointers and paragraphs which provide useful advice for any photographer wishing to improve and grow, and I intend to refer to my notes and to try and keep these in mind as I look to progress to the next level. I borrowed this from the local library and would recommend it for level one students to help introduce the key concepts and as a refresher for other levels.