The camera never lies, they say, and for Henri Cartier-Bresson it could uncover a hidden truth like no other art form
August will be the centenary of the birth of Cartier-Bresson, the influential French photographer and pioneer of photojournalism, and a new exhibition, Scrapbook Photographs 1932-46, at the National Media Museum in Bradford (now till June 1, free entry), brings together more than 300 shots from his early career.
Cartier-Bresson, an aspiring surrealist painter in the frenetic cultural climate of Paris in the Twenties, turned to photography when he saw the revolutionary potential of capturing the seemingly ordinary and mundane - public places, street scenes, unsuspecting subjects - and finding new, unintended meaning.
Scrapbook Photographs 1932-46 is a revised, expanded version of the famous exhibition that made his name at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1947. This show was originally intended as a posthumous celebration - Cartier-Bresson was rumoured to have perished during his three years in a Nazi prisoner of war camp. But he had in fact escaped in 1943 and, after a long hide-out, was able to return to his career and make the selections for the MoMA show personally. These cover his travels in Europe, America and Africa and betray the influence of the Surrealists.