"Derrière la Gare Saint-Lazare", Paris ( 1932) Henri
is one of the most famous photographers in history and his works have been
presented in many exhibitions all around the world. His concept of photography
was very influential for many photographers during the second half of the
twentieth century, especially from the first publication in 1952 of his book
“Images a la saurette” (Instant images). His theory about the photographer’s
intuition is very well known. His intuition enables him to capture the decisive
moment which synthesises the essence of the situation happening at that time.
Consequently Bresson’s work is not one built on the foundation of series of
images but on individual, magical shots which by themselves distil the
perception and the feelings of the author.
image I have chosen clearly high lights this vision. This street picture was
taken in 1932, that’s seventy years ago; it’s necessary to point out this
date for different reasons. In the first place because at that time photographic
cameras were much more limited than they are today; that’s why, to be able to
capture such difficult conditions of light and movement with the perfection and
clarity as he has done, presents a very significant challenge. Secondly, because
if this image, which has become one of the contemporary photographic icons, was
presented today in a digital photography festival someone could easily say,
“What amazing things can be done with photo shop!” Such is the clarity and
the precision of the composition of this image, the balance of the different
elements, shadows and contrasts. A curious paradox for a picture by someone who
rejected radically not only the editing of images but also the simple
modifications of the “frame” he obtained with his shot. His respect for his
decisive moment, as he called it, led him to the point of developing some of his
pictures with the frames of the negative in order to prove that nothing had been
go back to the picture. Probably Bresson was walking one autumn morning with his
camera around his neck through the streets of Paris looking for a special shot.
And he really found it. It had been raining a lot the night before and the
deserted streets at the back of the station are covered with water. This creates
a flat surface reflecting the same light as the cloudy Paris sky. Only three
fingers depth of water have created this watery mirror which will reflect with
great sharpness the figure of the passer-by. He wants to cross the square and
starts by using the ladder that’s lying on the ground. At the end of the
ladder he decides to jump trying not to get his shoes wet. And it’s at that
moment that the miracle happens. His right foot remains just above the water;
the man remains suspended in the air as he was preparing himself to start a
short flight which will lead him to the other side.
has this been possible? Is it really a miracle or could it be that the dancer in
the poster which appears in the background on the left of the picture has
inspired the passer-by. For a moment it has given him this magical impulse that
makes us see the dancer literally fly over the stage in a ballet performance.
truth is that our man seems to be dancing in the same way. It’s also possible
that before starting to cross the main character, after seeing the poster’s
reflection in the water, had asked his advice. Further in the background another
man is looking with astonishment at the scene through a fence and in order not
to leave him out, the mirror reflects his image in the water. Yet further in the
background the rooves of the gate Sant Lazare appear surrounded the smoke of the
steam trains that arrive and depart.
who said at the time that photography was a thing of magic were absolutely right!