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Henri Cartier Bresson: Chine | Exhibition

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The “Henri Cartier-Bresson: Chine, 1948-1949 | 1958” exhibition has opened on October 15 and will be on until February 20, 2020 at the Foundation HCB in Paris.

It brings together 114 original prints from 1948-1949, 40 prints from 1958, and many archive documents. These journeys showed not only positive aspects, but also the negative ones, like the exploitation of human labour and the hold of the militias. Both reportage were met with an incredible success.

Henri Cartier-Bresson -CHINA. Beijing. December 1948. Street of antique dealers.

It was November 25 1948 when Henri Cartier-Bresson was commissioned by Life magazine to shoot a story on the last days of Beijing before the Maoist troops’ arrival. The initial plan was to stay two weeks, but he would then stay for ten months, witnessing the fall of Nanjing by the hands of Kuomintang.

Henri Cartier-Bresson – Tôt le matin, dans la Cité interdite, dix mille nouvelles recrues sont rassemblées pour former un régiment nationaliste. Pékin, décembre 1948.

Forced to stay in Shanghai under Communist control for four months, he left China a few days before the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China. This long stay in China was the moment that signed the history of photojournalism: this reportage came out at the beginning of the Magnum Photos agency’s work, which Bresson had co-founded eighteen months earlier in New York, and it brought a new style, less event-based and more poetic, attentive as much to the people as to the balance of the composition.

Henri Cartier-Bresson – À l’entrée d’une taverne, Pékin, décembre 1948.

One of the consequences of China 1948-1949 was that, from the fifties Bresson became a major benchmark in  this new wave of photojournalism and the transformation of photography in general. In 1958 Henri Cartier-Bresson set off on a new journey of discovery, although under completely different conditions. Accompanied by a guide for four months, he travelled thousands of kilometres on the launch of the “Great Leap Forward” to report on the results of the Revolution and the forced  industrialisation of rural areas. Also this reportage was successful, showing every aspect of this revolution.

Don’t miss this incredible exhibition on the history of French photojournalism opened until February 20, 2020.