a blog by knut skjærven

Cartier-Bresson and Zen

Tonal Range. © 2008: Knut Skjærven.

In the history of photography French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson plays a special role. Not only are many of his photographs a delight  to look at and to study, but Cartier-Bresson also had a good grip on what he wanted to do, and how he wanted to do it. He wrote about his photography.

The book giving the best overview of his thoughts on photography is The Minds Eye. I have the version from 1999, published by Aperture.

In this book, as in other contexts, Cartier-Bresson suggest that he does not consider himself as a photographer at all, but as one whose main task it simply is to be attentive to life. His main art form he considered to be drawing. For Cartier-Bresson photography was only a quicker way to do things.

If you want to understand a bit more about what this attention to life might mean, a good place to start is within Buddhism. Cartier-Bresson is said to be a Buddhist at least part of his life. I started to look around for sources that might enlighten me in this matter.

By a simple search on Google, I was pointed to an article on the subject. The article is Henri Cartier Bresson Zen Buddhist? It is written by British photographer and photojournalist, Ben Wyeth. Go see his site here.

The story ends here. Or is starts here. Depends.  As it is Friday: Have a nice weekend. Enjoy the article.

Many thanks, Ben.


5 responses

  1. dear and divine Knut…. this is a spiritual dimension of creativity….enjoying your text and art works of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson….your work also is quite good and brings oneness within…it mirrors your oneness with work…

    love all..

    February 25, 2011 at 11:28 am

  2. Many thanks, Ram.

    My photographs are always very plain and simple. You have probably heard the saying: simple minds, simple pictures. I work hard to get them at simple as possible :-).

    I enjoy writing texts too, but only short texts. Simple photographs, simple texts goes well together.

    Have a good weekend and thanks for being so attentive to life :-).


    February 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm

  3. Hi Knut and everybody,

    Some HCB’s interviews are breaked up all over Youtube. I collected the five links about a reportage broadcasted by the german/french channel Arte. You can this video here :


    HCB express himself in french, but the sub-titles are very well translated into english.


    February 25, 2011 at 7:31 pm

  4. Hi Bernard

    What a great link that was. Many thanks. I know many on the films that are on YouTube, but these are in French. Because of that they might be even better. HBC at home.

    I really look forward seeing all of them.


    February 25, 2011 at 8:36 pm

  5. Hi Bernard and others.

    I have now seen all of the videos in your link. The last one includes statements on Buddhism.

    HCB states that the influence from The Far East has been more important to him than the Christian influence. (He spent three years in The Far East).

    The sentence, that I find particularly important is where HCB says that Buddhism is not a religion, but a spiritual science.

    The ways and methods of this spiritual science is, then, what we must look for if we seek to establish the particular HCB vision in photography. Suits me fine.

    Have a good Sunday :-).


    February 26, 2011 at 9:28 am

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