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The Mind's Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  2,228 ratings  ·  59 reviews
Henri Cartier-Bresson's writings on photography and photographers have been published sporadically over the past 45 years. His essays--several of which have never before been translated into English--are collected here for the first time. The Mind's Eye features Cartier-Bresson's famous text on "the decisive moment" as well as his observations on Moscow, Cuba and China dur ...more
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published June 15th 2005 by Aperture (first published January 1st 1999)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  2,228 ratings  ·  59 reviews

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Ernest Junius
Mar 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: film photographers
I started taking photography seriously about two years ago, when I first bought my Voigtlander's Bessa R2a camera in Singapore. Previously, I was happy being an ignorant amateur, armed with my lomo LC-A, taking pictures of friends and sceneries I liked. But gradually, I had become more and more sensitive towards the quality of the images I took. I started getting mad when the images didn't come out the way I wanted to be (or as I saw it). Then I started to research more about photography, and fo ...more
Greg Goodale
Aug 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
I wish I could add more, but the negative reviews have covered most of what there is to say.
HCB had an extraordinary journey through art and photography. He trained as a painter, became a surrealist photographer, a strict adherent of classical composition, founded a major photographic agency which he then left, then abandoned photography altogether.
This book gives virtually zero insight into this fascinating life.
But I see the shortfall of this book not as the absence of biographical detail, b
Esra Bestel
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Great photographer and great writer...

"In a World that is buckling under the weight of profit-making, that is overrun by the destructive sirens of techno-science and the power-hunger of globalization - that new brand of slavery - beyond all that, friendship exists, love exists."

Bresson 1998
Feb 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-inspiration
A reminder to pick your head up, stop checking your messages and observe the tiny, funny, everyday moments. A great annual read from an all-time favorite photographer.
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves photography
Shelves: art-and-photo
As someone with an interest in photography this is a book that I come back to now and again. The essays are short and easy to pick up and read here and there. They contain pleanty of food for thought on observing the world through the camera lens. For example, the idea of the camera as Cartier-Bresson’s sketchbook is intriguing to me. While many artists use traditional sketchbooks which contain drawings, ideas, and experiments, Cartier-Bresson uses a camera to record images, compositions, and ev ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it

The Decisive Moment

Photography is, for me, a spontaneous impulse coming from an ever-attentive eye, which captures the moment and its eternity Henri Cartier Bresson

Henri Cartier Bresson is of course the great photographer of 'The Decisive Moment'. Only last year I met him in Tbilisi – Georgia. On the street corner he photographed some fifty years ago. The street corner still looked the same. A little less paint on the wood, a little less glass in the windows but not really changed.
I made a
May 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone curious about life
Shelves: photography
Reading about HCB's experiences and philosophies from the man himself was, of course, interesting. As a small compilation of miscellaneous thoughts, it's a good read. But those who want to get a peek into his mind (no pun intended) I think will find it a bit too short.

I'm still on a lookout for the Decisive Moment, if anyone knows where I can find an english copy that won't cost me one million dollars.
Ola Loobeensky
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Beautiful book full of texts filled with deep humanism, respect and understanding. Very calm one too. Also a crucial source for those interested in photography - it is the only available oeuvre in which an essay entitled "The Decisive Moment" can be found if you don't have the money to buy an original "Images à la sauvette" 1952 edition. ...more
Feb 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
A must read for any young documentary photographer. We have this as required reading on many of our workshops. It's a true analysis of the medium by a master of the craft. Even if you're not a photographer, Bresson's words on images and photographs are inspired and thought provoking. ...more
Li Jia Li
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written book of what's photography is about and how's photographer's mind works. I randomly bought it at random second-hand shop on the road and turn out to be a great book. I will definitely read it again. ...more
Patrick Hanlon
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The photographic master sums up his craft, his approach and his ethic in so many ways. My favorite quote: "people think far too much about techniques and not enough about seeing," articulates much about photography. A generous look behind the curtain. ...more
Jul 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: goodtoknow
Photography only makes sense with Bresson.
Dec 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: photo
This is a small book and an easy read. It's nice that HCB's writings are collected in such a convenient and accessible little volume, and it's reasonably interesting. However, I keep wondering how many people who would pick up this book won't leave it a little disappointed? Hence the three stars. While I enjoy hearing his thoughts and anecdotes, especially the earlier sections that are more specifically photo-oriented, I'm not sure what I'll take from having read this. Much of it is a collection ...more
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
For someone wanting to “see” or to “learn the art of seeing” as I’ve made note that many admirable photographers frame this ability as an elemental key to the art of mastering photography and improving what images you capture with your cameras. This book illuminated that path as a short, inspirational read with less technically ruled details and more advice for “putting one’s head, one’s eye and one’s heart on the same axis.
It gives focus to the intangible personal aspects of what the camera ca
Nicolas Chinardet
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
This is an odd little volume. The first section mostly expounds Cartier-Bresson's theories on photography. This is followed by a few short pieces of travel writing and finishes with scraps of texts about artists, HCB has known. A sprinkling of photographs, sketches and handwritten notes completes this heteroclite collection.

In a way this works like a photo album, gathering together disparate snapshots (visual and mostly written) without much context, and in the end little meaning.

The theoretica
Rajiv Chopra
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I like this book a lot. There are some real nuggets of insight here. The good thing about the book, is that it is short and concise. There is no verbiage, if I may use the term.

There is, however, a small issue. In a short book like this, you would expect that the insights would be more liberally scattered through the book. A lot of space is devoted to his own impressions of friends etc. This in itself, is not a bad thing. The price for this, however, is a bit high

The insights, when you come acr
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
Cartier-Bresson is a must know for all photographers, despite the fact that he fairly shunned accolades and even left behind photography in the final third of his life. He still celebrated great photographers and other artists, as printed in this book, which is a series of short writings he did about photography, art, artists, friends, and places.

Most people will read this to get insight into his view of street photography, but will probably come away remembering more how he described places li
Thomas Becker
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A marvelous read, like a good friend visiting you, engaging you with conversation to take your mind off of your troubles, whether it be COVID-19 or having your gallbladder removed. HCB writes like he's taking you into his confidence, revealing wonderous things about photography and life. This is the perfect little read for convalescence, just finishing a series and need a total change of subject, or as a gift to a photographers. ...more
Vikram Moghe
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Not only will it make you think about and improve how you compose and frame a photograph, you’d be forgiven for thinking this guy is not just a legendary photographer but an accomplished writer too. So much of it resonated with me that I was either awestruck or was shaking my head in both agreement and disbelief with what I was reading
Jul 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
For anyone NOT familiar with this famous photographer's body of work, this little book won't mean a whole lot. Equip yourself with some familiarity and you gain much from the work. I particularly appreciated the wit and courtesy with which the author described some of his friends in Part III of the book. ...more
Jan 31, 2021 rated it liked it
HCB seems to write for social media - bite size chunks, easy digestible but not enough to make a whole meal of. Part One (on photography) carries some deep insights, Part Two (on places) some keen observations but for me, Part Three (on photographers) mostly falls into banality or snobbishness. A light volume that has very good moments but not enough to be a "must have". ...more
Antonio Delgado
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
These subtle revelations on the photographic process illuminates artistic process of one of the greatest artists of 5e past century. The artist uses instruments at his disposition while conjuring the mind and the body into the process.
Just over 100 pages... I enjoyed the first half, which contained essays on art/photography. The last half was a collection of snippets about other artists he knew. Heartfelt I’m sure, but meh. It was interesting to look up the work of those folks though.
Dec 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Enjoyed his thoughts on photography and his creative friends.
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
I liked it! I could relate to much of the writing angst and decisions about stepping away from the novel writing. Not sure I’d recommend it for non-writers though.
Feb 07, 2021 rated it liked it
May 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: photography
A very modest, slim volume of HCB's writings. It does capture his basic idea-- that photography should be a spontaneous, subconscious act-- without premeditation, setup, or advanced techniques (lighting, studio, retouching, etc.) Most of the essays were taken from his books, and they tend to read more like inscrutable poetry than practical advice. The book ends with with a bunch of essays on his travels and friends, which are less interesting than his meditation on his own photography practices. ...more
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
Part one of the book offers the absolute minimal insight to his approach to photography (together with an awkward, out-of-place endorsement of Buddhism?!). It makes up for the only interesting material of the book.

The other parts are an unfortunate display of the artist's unbearable "bourgeois-ness" and historic unawareness (part 2), and random—and abysmally uninteresting—acknowledgements of his contemporary colleagues and friends (part 3)

Better stick to the man's photos.
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Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer considered to be the father of modern photojournalism, an early adopter of 35 mm format, and the master of candid photography. He helped develop the "street photography" or "real life reportage" style that has influenced generations of photographers that followed. ...more

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