Published to coincide with the opening in 2003 of the Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson, which was created to house permanently the artist's collected works, AN INNER SILENCE is a joy to behold. There are 95 photographs reproduced here along with a self-portrait sketch of Cartier-Bresson and a quotation by him. Both curator Agnes Sire and philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy have written insightful, informative essays to accompany the photographs. Sire reminds us that the artist disliked being photographed-- ("Perhaps he felt the falseness of the situation")-- and tht he liked to work quickly, in the photographer's own words, to "'bite like a mosquito,'" in order to capture the inner silence of the subject.
But now to the photographs. There are shots here seen around the world of famous people: Marilyn Monroe, Martin Luther King, Jean Genet, Christian Dior (one of my favorites), Francis Bacon, Roland Barthes (fantastic photograph), a very young and pensive Carson McCullers. William Faulkner (another favorite), Henri Matisse, a very youthful and handsome John Huston, Truman Capote, Albert Camus et al.
What is so amazing, however, about these photographs is that the shots of strangers are just as intriguing and engage the viewer as much as the images of the rich and/or famous or both. For example, "Mexico" (p. 49), "Jewish ghetto, Warsaw" (p. 47), "Egypt" (p. 39), "Paris" (p. 81), "Zurich" (p. 105), and "Los Angeles" (p. 107). I for one would like to know more about this young couple.
These photographs, like all great art, invite us to view them again and again. Shot in gorgeous available natural light, they remind us of just how harsh and often pedestrian flash photography can be.
Sire closes her essay by saying that "an exhibition of these encounters would not only be one more tribute to his talent [Cartier-Bresson], as a photographer, but more importantly, would allow many aspects of his being to shine, like so many firefires in a field, because the gaze of these portraits is his gaze, linked by the thread of the other." Beautifully spoken.