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photos Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson

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Why you will love it?

It is simply impossible not to have seen a picture of Henri Cartier-Bresson at least once in your life, although you might not have known it was one of his pictures. This exhibition takes you through all the different phases of the photographer’s work throughout his life, with a selection of some of his most notorious pictures. Enjoy! Parisianist.

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About this place

Pompidou Center - Place Georges-Pompidou, Paris 75004
Line 1/11 - Hôtel de Ville Line 11 - Rambuteau
Line A / B / D - Châtelet Les Halles

Tuesday : Closed
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Monday : 11:00 am - 22:00 pm Tuesday : Closed Wednesday : 11:00 am - 22:00 pm Thursday : 11:00 am - 22:00 pm Friday : 11:00 am - 22:00 pm Saturday : 11:00 am - 22:00 pm Sunday : 11:00 am - 22:00 pm

Our Insiders' Article


Beauty of the pictures, precision in the framing, genius in the composition: Henri Cartier-Bresson’s pictures speak louder than words. Located on the top floor of the Centre Georges Pompidou, the exhibition offers over 500 pictures, drawings, paintings, films and documents, from his iconic photos to lesser known and personal drawings, highlighting more than 70 years of work. 


Henri Cartier-Bresson is one of the most famous photographers of the 20th century (1908-2004). Starting out as an amateur photographer, playing around with a camera to capture moments of his adolescence, he quickly never left home without his Leica camera. His passion for travel and photography quickly lead him to becoming a great photojournalist, his eye adding a touch of poetry to some of the major events that marked the 20th century. He also created the cooperative Magnum Photos. Less know but also exposed are personal projects such as drawings and his involvement in cinematography.   


The exhibition is displayed in a chronological order, starting with pictures of his youth (both his own and pictures of him as a child) all the way to his contemplative period at the end of his life. There are three main periods on which the exhibition is based. The first part is dedicated to his debut as a photographer, when he started befriending surrealist artists and travelling to the far corners of the world (1926-1935). The second part focuses on his political commitment and his experience in the movie business (1936-1946). The third and final part deals with his photo-reporter career as well as his works after his reporter years (1947-1970). 


The decor of the Cartier-Bresson exhibition is uncluttered, in order to really highlight the beauty and genius of his photography. The framed pictures are aligned on white or grey walls, with a few small video screens and larger silver screens scattered in the exhibition hall. Warning: this exhibition is very popular. On busy days (weekends), waiting time can last up to 90 minutes. Make sure you plan your visit between 12pm and 2pm on weekdays!


Cartier-Bresson first started experimenting what he learned about composition and geometry with paintings and picked up a camera in the late 1920’s, an object he would hold on to for the rest of his life. His desire to travel the world led him to make his first trip to Africa where he captured the magic and reality of African lives. In Paris, he also started hanging around with some surrealist artists, a trend he incorporated in his early photos.

major events

His talent started attracting attention, and because of his political commitment to improve social conditions, he was commissioned by the Communist press to cover certain events in France, such as the first paid holidays or poverty. This also led him to start filming, especially during WWII when he immortalized the liberation of Paris. In 1947, he cofounded the cooperative Magnum and became a full time photojournalist. He travelled from India to China by way of Russia and Cuba to highlight some of the most critical moments in modern history (Gandhi’s assassination, the rise of Mao in China, the Cuba crisis and the social disturbances of Mai 1968 in Paris…)


During all his time as a photojournalist, Cartier-Bresson liked to capture moments within recurring themes, such as the relationship between man and machine, political idols, consumer society and crowds. The last section of the exhibition shows a selection of some of the pictures that were closely related to those particular themes. Contemplative photography also marked his work towards his later years, after distancing himself from Magnum and the journalism world. At that time, he also went back to drawing, just like in his younger years…


The stage design might not be the best, but after spending 1 hour or more looking at the hundreds of pictures that have been exceptionally gathered for this exhibition, you will have no doubt about Henri Cartier-Bresson’s genius and professionalism. Not only will you be able to witness the art of black and white photography pushed to its highest level (there was no Photoshop at that time!), but this exhibition will also take you back to some of the major historical events that have overwhelmed the 20th century or put a smile on your face when seeing mankind at its finest.

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