Below is a selection of my favorite quotes from the great man, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Many of these quotes can be found in his interviews and his book, ‘Interviews and conversations.
He’s a photographer who has been a driving force and inspiration in my career as a photographer. I first discovered his work when I was a college student, and by then, I already knew photography was the career I’d love..

“It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson.

“It’s a rhythm, the way the head falls here, this goes back, there’s a line between different elements. There’s a square here, a rectangle, another rectangle. See, it’s all these problems which I’m preoccupied with. The greatest joy for me is geometry; that means a structure. You can’t go shooting for shapes, for patterns and all this, but it is a sensuous pleasure, an intellectual pleasure, at the same time to have everything in the right place. It’s a recognition of an order which is in front of you.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Our eye must constantly measure, evaluate. We modify the perspectives by a slight deflection of the knees, we bring coincidences of lines by a simple displacement of the head of a fraction of millimeter, but this can be done only with the speed of a reflex, and invites us to make Art.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“One eye of the photographer looks wide open through the viewfinder, the other, the closed looks into his own soul.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“To photograph is to put on the same line of sight the head, the eye and the heart.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Of course it’s all luck.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Photography is a way of shouting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one’s own originality. It’s a way of life.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“I am a bundle of nerves waiting for the moment and it rises and it explodes, it is a physical joy, dance, time and space together. Yes!! Yes! Yes! As the conclusion of Ulysses of Joyce. [The art of] seeing is of the utmost importance.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Photography is an immediate reaction, drawing is a meditation.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“I’m not responsible for my photographs. Photography is not documentary, but intuition, a poetic experience. It’s drowning yourself, dissolving yourself, and then sniff, sniff, sniff – being sensitive to coincidence. You can’t go looking for it; you can’t want it, or you won’t get it. First you must lose yourself. Then it happens.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Thinking should be done before and after, not during photographing.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“The photograph itself doesn’t interest me. I want only to capture a minute part of reality.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“A photograph is neither taken or seized by force. It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you. One must not take photos.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“The picture is good or not from the moment it was caught in the camera.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Memory is very important, the memory of each photo taken, flowing at the same speed as the event. During the work, you have to be sure that you haven’t left any holes, that you’ve captured everything, because afterwards it will be too late.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“This recognition, in real life, of a rhythm of surfaces, lines, and values is for me the essence of photography; composition should be a constant of preoccupation, being a simultaneous coalition – an organic coordination of visual elements.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“We must avoid however, snapping away, shooting quickly and without thought, overloading ourselves with unnecessary images that clutter our memory and diminish the clarity of the whole.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Of all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes a precise moment in time.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

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