Henri Cartier-Bresson, Martin Parr : two photographers, two artists that everything opposes. A new exhibition brings them together.

This exhibition reconciles the two photographers

For many years, totally different approaches to photography seemed to separate these two artists. Martin Parr, the photographer of the English middle class, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, the photographer of the “decisive moment“. They have currently reunited on the occasion of an exhibition. On the occasion of the inauguration of its new space, the HCB Foundation presents an unprecedented exhibition on the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) and Martin Parr (born in 1952). This exhibition reconciles the two photographers, separated by a “gulf” as Martin Parr describes it himself, through their gaze, at three different times, on the society of Northern England at work and during his leisure time.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Martin Parr

“two different solar systems”

In 1989, Martin Parr, a renowned yet controversial photographer for his color photographs of the British “middle class” on the beaches of Northern England, caused an uproar when he tried to join the cooperative Magnum Photos agency. . Henri Cartier-Bresson, co-founder of the agency, fumes against this prospect. A meeting of the two artists allows a friendly reconciliation and the coexistence of their conceptions of photography, belonging to “two different solar systems” according to Cartier-Bresson. Martin Parr finally joined Magnum Photos in 1994.

Martin Parr

They openly display their artistic differences

If the two photographers openly display their artistic differences, a recent discovery nuance them. In 2021, the Cinémathèque française unearths a film made on the bench, with the photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson, by Douglas Hickox in 1962 for British television ITV/ABC. In Stop laughing – This is England, Cartier-Bresson paints an amused portrait of the English at work and during their leisure time in the industrial north of the country. The photographs of Cartier Bresson, commissioned for this film, as well as the comments, resonate in a disturbing way, 24 years apart, with the decried work of Martin Parr, published in the book The Last Resort in 1986. The Reconciliation exhibition presents this film as well as the original prints by Henri Cartier-Bresson which are its raw material; the book The Last Resort by Martin Parr and a more recent commission (2009/2010), Black Country Stories, given to the latter to go back in his own footsteps in the North of England to photograph… the English at work and during their hobbies. Three eras, two perspectives to describe the same society and its evolution (1962, 1986, 2010). As Henri Cartier-Bresson said: “It is not more exotic than England”.

Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation

79 rue des Archives –

75003 Paris

+33 (0)1 40 61 50 50


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