Bresson’s passing away on the 5th of august 2004 brings the death to 95 years of photo history. To say that the man singlehandedly invented the genre of professional photojournalism would not be much of an exaggeration – he will be sorely missed.
Despite being shy, often denying the greatness of some of his achievements, the photographer has left a significant mark on the history of photography – not to mention the general history of the world.
Bresson was born in 1908 not far from Paris. He studied art at first, but started dabbling in photography in the early 1930s, and made a name for himself taking pictures on the streets of paris with the first 35mm camera, a Leica rangefinder. Bresson was one of the three founding members of the Magnum picture agency in 1947 (the two others were Robert Capa and David Seymour. Even today, being accepted as a Magnum photographer is one of the greatest honours a photojournalist can receive: the agency is famous for its high quality and unique hard-hitting news photography from around the world.
One of the most famous phrases in photography – the concept of a decisive moment; the moment at which every single detail of a photograph come together, and the idea that after this moment, the picture would be forever gone – was coined by Bresson
But Bresson will be even further missed by the photography profession.
In the past fifty years, the profession of photography has changed dramatically. In the world Bresson knew, photography was the art of information, education, and perhaps even warning the world of the atrocities that go on. Today, photojournalism has been reduced to making a living, and a constant battle against the photo desks, who, riding the capitalism pony, believe they pay too much for a photograph. This means that – in a society where profits and stock market returns are all that matter – the art of photojournalism is all but dead.
Bresson’s photographic spectrum covers just about everything we, human beings, have learned about the world. In fact, as one of my colleagues said it, “If invaders came and wanted to know anything about our planet: show them Bresson’s photographs.”
Many of us feel that the loss of Bresson is not only the loss of a much-cherished and extremely talented photographer. His death symbolises the end of photojournalism as we know it.