The Theory of Composition in
Street Photography
7	
  Lessons	
  from	
  	
  
Henri	
  Cartier-­‐Bresson
Eric	
  Kim
1. Organize reality
• “To	
  take	
  photographs	
  means	
  to	
  recognize–	
  
simultaneously	
  and	
  within	
  a	
  ...
3
Henri	
  Cartier	
  Bresson	
  /	
  SPAIN.	
  Andalucia.	
  Seville.	
  1933.
4
Henri	
  Cartier	
  Bresson	
  /	
  ITALY.	
  Friouli.	
  Trieste.	
  1933.	
  
2. Communicate the subject
• “If	
  a	
  photograph	
  is	
  to	
  communicate	
  its	
  subject	
  
in	
  all	
  its	
  i...
6
Henri	
  Cartier	
  Bresson	
  /	
  GREECE.	
  Cyclades.	
  Island	
  of	
  Siphnos.	
  1961.
Henri	
  Carier-­‐Bresson	
  :	
  G.B.	
  1937.	
  England.	
  London.	
  Hyde	
  Park	
  in	
  the	
  grey	
  drizzle.
3. Focus on “slight modifications”
• “The	
  photographer’s	
  eye	
  is	
  perpetually	
  
evaluating.	
  A	
  photograph...
Henri	
  Cartier-­‐Bresson	
  
FRANCE.	
  1932.	
  Marseille.	
  	
  
The	
  Allée	
  du	
  Prado.
4. Trace your photos after
• “Later,	
  to	
  substantiate	
  this,	
  you	
  can	
  take	
  a	
  print	
  
of	
  this	
  ...
The	
  “Golden	
  Triangle”
Henri	
  Cartier-­‐Bresson:	
  ROMANIA.	
  1975.	
  In	
  a	
  train.
Henri	
  Cartier-­‐Bresson	
  :	
  1967.	
  Martine's	
  Legs.
5. Follow your intuition
• “Composition	
  must	
  be	
  one	
  of	
  our	
  constant	
  
preoccupations,	
  but	
  at	
  ...
25
Henri	
  Cartier	
  Bresson	
  /	
  SPAIN.	
  Madrid.	
  1933.	
  
26
Henri	
  Cartier	
  Bresson	
  /	
  JAPAN,	
  Tokyo	
  1965
6. Analyze your photos afterwards
• “In	
  applying	
  the	
  Golden	
  Rule,	
  the	
  only	
  pair	
  of	
  
compasses	
...
Fibonacci	
  Spiral
28
Fibonacci	
  Spiral	
  +	
  Golden	
  Triangle
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
7. Don’t crop
• “If	
  you	
  start	
  cutting	
  or	
  cropping	
  a	
  good	
  photograph,	
  it	
  
means	
  death	
  t...
38
Henri	
  Cartier	
  Bresson	
  /	
  SPAIN.	
  Valencia.	
  1933.	
  
39
40
Learn More About Composition
• Composition	
  Lesson	
  #1:	
  Triangles	
  
• Composition	
  Lesson	
  #2:	
  Figure-­‐to...
The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
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The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson

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In this presentation, we analyze the theory of composition in street photography, drawing from wisdom from Henri Cartier-Bresson. We will also analyze some of his photographs and discuss why they work compositionally, as well as sharing the importance of analyzing your photographs (after you shoot them).

Learn more about street photography here: http://erickimphotography.com/blog

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The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson

  1. 1. The Theory of Composition in Street Photography 7  Lessons  from     Henri  Cartier-­‐Bresson Eric  Kim
  2. 2. 1. Organize reality • “To  take  photographs  means  to  recognize–   simultaneously  and  within  a  fraction  of  a   second–  both  the  fact  itself  and  the  rigorous   organization  of  visually  perceived  forms  that   give  it  meaning.”  -­‐  Henri  Cartier-­‐Bresson 2
  3. 3. 3 Henri  Cartier  Bresson  /  SPAIN.  Andalucia.  Seville.  1933.
  4. 4. 4 Henri  Cartier  Bresson  /  ITALY.  Friouli.  Trieste.  1933.  
  5. 5. 2. Communicate the subject • “If  a  photograph  is  to  communicate  its  subject   in  all  its  intensity,  the  relationship  of  form   must  be  rigorously  established.  Photography   implies  the  recognition  of  a  rhythm  in  the   world  of  real  things.  What  the  eye  does  is  to   find  and  focus  on  the  particular  subject  within   the  mass  of  reality;  what  the  camera  does  is   simply  to  register  upon  film  the  decision  made   by  the  eye.”  -­‐  Henri  Cartier-­‐Bresson 5
  6. 6. 6 Henri  Cartier  Bresson  /  GREECE.  Cyclades.  Island  of  Siphnos.  1961.
  7. 7. Henri  Carier-­‐Bresson  :  G.B.  1937.  England.  London.  Hyde  Park  in  the  grey  drizzle.
  8. 8. 3. Focus on “slight modifications” • “The  photographer’s  eye  is  perpetually   evaluating.  A  photographer  can  bring  coincidence   of  line  simply  by  moving  his  head  a  fraction  of  a   millimeter.  He  can  modify  perspectives  by  a  slight   bending  of  the  knees.  By  placing  the  camera  closer   to  or  farther  from  the  subject,  he  draws  a  detail–   and  it  can  be  subordinated,  or  he  can  be   tyrannized  by  it.  But  he  composes  a  picture  in  very   nearly  the  same  amount  of  time  it  takes  to  click   the  shutter,  at  the  speed  of  a  reflex  action.”                         -­‐  Henri  Cartier-­‐Bresson 11
  9. 9. Henri  Cartier-­‐Bresson   FRANCE.  1932.  Marseille.     The  Allée  du  Prado.
  10. 10. 4. Trace your photos after • “Later,  to  substantiate  this,  you  can  take  a  print   of  this  picture,  trace  it  on  the  geometric   figures  which  come  up  under  analysis,  and   you’ll  observe  that,  if  the  shutter  was  released   at  the  decisive  moment,  you  have  instinctively   fixed  a  geometric  pattern  without  which  the   photograph  would  have  been  both  formless   and  lifeless.”  -­‐  Henri  Cartier-­‐Bresson 14
  11. 11. The  “Golden  Triangle”
  12. 12. Henri  Cartier-­‐Bresson:  ROMANIA.  1975.  In  a  train.
  13. 13. Henri  Cartier-­‐Bresson  :  1967.  Martine's  Legs.
  14. 14. 5. Follow your intuition • “Composition  must  be  one  of  our  constant   preoccupations,  but  at  the  moment  of   shooting  it  can  stem  only  from  our  intuition,   for  we  are  out  to  capture  the  fugitive  moment,   and  all  the  interrelationships  involved  are  on   the  move.”  -­‐  Henri  Cartier-­‐Bresson 24
  15. 15. 25 Henri  Cartier  Bresson  /  SPAIN.  Madrid.  1933.  
  16. 16. 26 Henri  Cartier  Bresson  /  JAPAN,  Tokyo  1965
  17. 17. 6. Analyze your photos afterwards • “In  applying  the  Golden  Rule,  the  only  pair  of   compasses  at  the  photographer’s  disposal  is  his  own   pair  of  eyes.  Any  geometrical  analysis,  any  reducing   of  the  picture  to  a  schema,  can  be  done  only   (because  of  its  very  nature)  after  the  photograph  has   been  taken,  developed,  and  printed–  and  then  it  can   be  used  only  for  a  post-­‐mortem  examination  of  the   picture.  I  hope  we  will  never  see  the  day  when  photo   shops  sell  little  schema  grills  to  clamp  onto  our   viewfinders;  and  the  Golden  Rule  will  never  be  found   etched  on  our  ground  glass.”  -­‐  Henri  Cartier-­‐Bresson 27
  18. 18. Fibonacci  Spiral 28
  19. 19. Fibonacci  Spiral  +  Golden  Triangle 29
  20. 20. 30
  21. 21. 31
  22. 22. 32
  23. 23. 33
  24. 24. 34
  25. 25. 35
  26. 26. 36
  27. 27. 7. Don’t crop • “If  you  start  cutting  or  cropping  a  good  photograph,  it   means  death  to  the  geometrically  correct  interplay  of   proportions.  Besides,  it  very  rarely  happens  that  a   photograph  which  was  feebly  composed  can  be  saved   by  reconstruction  of  its  composition  under  the   darkroom’s  enlarger;  the  integrity  of  vision  is  no   longer  there.  There  is  a  lot  of  talk  about  camera   angles;  but  the  only  valid  angles  in  existence  are  the   angles  of  the  geometry  of  composition  and  not  the   ones  fabricated  by  the  photographer  who  falls  flat  on   his  stomach  or  performs  other  antics  to  procure  his   effects.”  -­‐  Henri  Cartier-­‐Bresson 37
  28. 28. 38 Henri  Cartier  Bresson  /  SPAIN.  Valencia.  1933.  
  29. 29. 39
  30. 30. 40
  31. 31. Learn More About Composition • Composition  Lesson  #1:  Triangles   • Composition  Lesson  #2:  Figure-­‐to-­‐ground   • Composition  Lesson  #3:  Diagonals   • Composition  Lesson  #4:  Leading  Lines   • Composition  Lesson  #5:  Depth   • Composition  Lesson  #6:  Framing   • Composition  Lesson  #7:  Perspective   • Composition  Lesson  #8:  Curves   • Composition  Lesson  #9:  Self-­‐Portraits   • Composition  Lesson  #10:  Urban  Landscapes   • Composition  Lesson  #11:  "Spot  the  not"   • Composition  Lesson  #12:  Color  Theory   • Composition  Lesson  #13:  Multiple-­‐Subjects   • Composition  Lesson  #14:  Square  Format 41

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