Inspirational Words From Photography Legend Henri Cartier-Bresson

I believe one of the best ways we can stay motivated as artists is to study the art and words of some of the legends of our craft. Inspired by the words of Henri Cartier-Bresson, film maker Eli Sinkus of put together this short 2-minute film which I loved. While it is important to take lots of photos, as photographers we need to remember that sometimes we should put the camera down and enjoy moments as well. Read on to learn about one that I experienced this past week while on vacation.

Cartier-Bresson has become popular over the years through a number of his quotes circling the internet about capturing the split-second moment or it is gone forever. Henri Cartier-Bresson was the father of photojournalism and coined the term "decisive moment" which has influenced many of the great photographers of today. "Photography is not like painting," Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post in 1957. "There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. 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. That is the moment the photographer is creative," he said. "Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever."

What I learned from this short film is that Cartier-Bresson didn't just stress capturing every moment, he also believed that there are times when you need to put the camera down and live. Often as photographers we get so caught up in trying to create photographs we forget to live in the moment.

Recently, my family and I were invited to spend a few days up in Lake Tahoe, California at our friends cabin. During our stay we decided to head down to the docks by the lake and tied some bacon to strings before lowering them into the water to fish out some crawdads from the beneath the rocks. I packed up my camera gear ready to capture photos of the experience. But once I got there, my camera stayed the entire time in the bag. Instead, I grabbed some fishing line, laid down on my stomach and there along side my wife and kids we enjoyed the time fishing for crawdads. It was only as we were packing things up to leave that I realized I failed to take any pictures. I pulled out my camera quickly and caught a few shots as we were heading out. Ultimately though that experience was far better with the camera in my bag than out of it.

Fstoppers Trevor Dayley Fishing Crawdads

As photographers we see tiny moments passing us by each and every day that we think, "Oh man I wish I had my camera." Maybe, just maybe it's okay for us to let some of these moments go. I love at about 1:06 in the film when Henri Cartier-Bresson says, "I think everything is interesting, but at the same time you can't just photograph everything you see. There's some places where the pulse beats more." Take 2-minutes out of your day today and watch this short film. Let me know what you think in the comments below or by sharing it with your friends.

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Leon Dacbert's picture

Love Henri-Cartier! One of my upmost inspirations. I definitely agree with him, "there's some places where the pulse beats more." I feel I need to remind myself that once in a while. Now since I've been dabbling in film a bit more it forces me to find that pulse.

theMezz's picture

What a great video, I just love it. Thank You

Eli's picture

Thanks for the love! this video was part of a series for 522 Productions.

Trevor Dayley's picture

Thanks Eli, I just added 522 to the article with a link to the website. Great job on the video.

Philip A Swiderski Jr.'s picture

Really cool as well as true.

Pedro Marques's picture

A tear fell down on my face...

HawaiiGeek's picture

Wow, powerful stuff. I am so glad I found this and took the time to look.

hispanky's picture

A wonderful film. A must see for every photographer.

Christina Dithmar's picture

It is very difficult for me to do, but the camera has to go back in the bag quite often. I made a choice to make sure that even though I want those memories captured with my 7 year old daughter, I needed to be there 100% for her, be present and let those memories imprint on my heart - not just my memory card or film. Annie Liebovitz apparently doesn't have many photos of her children because she too wanted to be present and with them, rather than behind the lens. I can't claim to not have many photos, but I can say I do my best, most of the time... Glad to see HCB agrees!

David's picture

Wonderful message. Time flies by so fast and we forget about our own lives. Once in awhile we need to remember our own lives and moments. Don't let them pass you by. Thanks for the reminder that we are human too. :-)

lmgfoto's picture

Wow, Thanks!! H C Bresson is one of my all time favorite photographers. Yes, I think as a photographer it is important that sometimes you must let yourself not take pictures. Usually when I arrive someplace new I try not to take pictures the moment i'm there. I want to become connected to the new surroundings without the camera so that I can connect later with the camera.

Jim's picture

Another quote they should have used from HCB: "To use a camera effectively, one should not repeatedly drop the camera."

Stanley Artlover's picture

Thanks for the post! Henri Cartier Bresson's photographies are amazing... I found some beautiful pictures representing Cartier Bresson's "Decisive Moment" in Art Days, here is the link! Enjoy! :)

Paul Griffin's picture

Amazing article. Such a mix of emotions came over me while watching the video. We have to appreciate the little things we have. Thank you so much for posting this. These motivational quotes are worthy too