Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happy Birthday, Henri Cartier-Bresson

Today is Henri Cartier-Bresson's birthday; he would have been 103.

I met Cartier-Bresson once, and it was all to brief. It was at the press preview for his "Early Works" show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in September 1987. I was there with my mentor and fellow Modern Photography editors Peter Moore and Katie Calhoun. Katie walked off into another room and Peter and I looked up and saw, just a few feet away, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Meeting HCB was on my bucket list. He was (and still is) an influence. His photos had a profound influence on me and inspired me to pursue a career in photography as a photojournalist. Or something.

And so, Peter and I looked at each other and said, "let's go!" Knowing that HCB was notoriously shy, I was ready to keep our meeting brief and non-threatening, and to forego the adulation. Peter and I introduced ourselves as editors from Modern Photography magazine and I quietly, simply said "thank you" and smiled, hopefully pleasantly enough. Then Peter, who didn't get my internal memo, started to say in a bit too loud a voice "I have always admired your work and..." but was cut off as HCB, with a look of absolute fear on his face, shouted "No No No No No!" and backed away into the next room and around the corner, never to be seen by us again.

Well, at least I did get to shake the man's hand.

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