Airport please! heading to Seoul for the photojournalist exhibitions of Henri Cartier-Bresson

by leslierankowfinearts

The Decisiive Moment
photographs by Henri Cartier Bresson

I think just about everyone needs a mental health break these days, and with Covid restrictions still putting a damper on our social lives, the art museums in Seoul have been a nice momentary escape from the ongoing chaos that has rampaged through 2022… Momotherose blog, Seoul, Korea

HCB in America
Magnum Photos

From 26 September 2019 to 2 February 2020

The exhibition “Henri Cartier-Bresson : The Decisive Moment” is on display at the Seoul Art Center Hangaram Design Museum, Seoul, from 26 September 2019 to 2 February 2020, in collaboration with Magnum Photos and the Fondation HCB.

Although HCB is known to have been an avid traveler, the essence of his work remained steadfastly Parisian. Indeed, it was in Paris, after studying painting alongside André Lhote in the Montparnasse quarter during the late 1920s, that HCB took up photography: “the first photographs I saw were those of Atget and Keretsz,” he notes. He secured, over time, his own distinctive photographic style, one inscribed in “a realm of imagination but modelled after life” (l’imaginaire d’après nature).

Henri Cartier Bresson

Endlessly roaming through the streets of Paris, HCB snatched away fleeting scenes, at their decisive moment. In these same streets, he would witness the unfolding of significant historical events such as the Liberation of Paris in August 1944 or the student riots of May 1968, while also commissioned by newspapers and magazines to cover various events such as the “six days of Paris” cycle race in November 1957 for the French periodical, Paris Match.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

It was also in Paris that, during the thirties, his encounters with Robert Capa and David Seymour blossomed into friendships, which proved decisive to his lifework. Shortly after the three friends launched the Magnum Photo Agency, in 1947, HCB undertook a three-year journey through the Far East. His photographs taken mostly in India and China, would soon appear in magazines across the world, including Life, Illustrated, and Paris Match. Some of them quickly acquired iconic status, marking a crowning moment in HCB’s career.

Magnum Photos


This exhibition, whose starting point is the book Paris à vue d’oeil, edited by Lothar Schirmer in 1994, is not a sociological study, but is oriented towards what a man, who considered “photography as lying somewhere between the art of the pickpocket and that of the funambulist,” thought was most important: “the flânerie of the gaze in a state of total and willing openness.”


The Hangaram Art Museum is a modern art museum located at the Seoul Arts Center. It is situated at the center’s left wing and it was specifically designed as a large open space to accommodate large-scale artworks and art installations. The museum has exhibition halls, an art library and an art shop. As the museum is part of the Seoul Arts Center complex, the center’s many arts programs are often hosted at the Hangaram Art Museum. A design market takes place at the museum as well.

This year will mark the 70th anniversary of when the famous French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, penned the book “The Decisive Moment” or “Images a la Sauvette” (Images on the Run) in 1952. The Decisive Moment will be on view at the Hangaram Art Museum (2406 Nambusunhwan-ro, Seocho-gu, Seoul) from June 10th, 2022 to October 22nd, 2022.


Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment (Verve, 1952), cover © Collections Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

From June 10 to October 2, 2022

Initated by the French publisher Tériade, the project of the famous publication Images à la Sauvette was finally realized on October 1952 as a French-American co-edition, with the contribution of Matisse and the American publishers Simon and Schuster. The latter chose The Decisive Moment as the title of the American version, and unintentionally imposed the motto which would define Cartier-Bresson’s work.

Since its publication in 1952, Images à la Sauvette has received an overwhelming success. It is considered as “a Bible for photographers” according to Robert Capa’s words. The innovative design of the publication stroke the art world with its refine format, the heliogravure quality and the strength of the image sequences. The publication reveals the inherent duality of Cartier-Bresson’s work between the photographer’s intimate interpretation and his documentary approach.

The exhibition presents a selection of vintage prints as well as many archive documents related to the adventure of this book, up to its its recent reprint in facsimile by Steidl.

Fondation Cartier-Bresson
Paris, France


79 rue des archives, Paris

For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to give a “meaning” to the world, one has to feel involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.

To take a photograph is to hold one’s breath when all faculties converge in a face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.

To take a photograph means to recognize, simultaneously and within a fraction of a second‚ both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning.

It is putting one‚ head, one‚ eye, and one‚ heart on the same axis. 

Established by Henri Cartier-Bresson, his wife Martine Franck, and their daughter Mélanie, the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation opened its doors in May 2003. It now preserves Henri Cartier-Bresson and Martine Franck’s archives. Privately owned and recognized as being of public interest, the Foundation is now one of the most prestigious institutions in Paris.

Fondation Cartier-Bresson, Paris


  • To preserve the independence and legacy of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Martine Franck’s work.
  • To retain an exceptional body of work in France.
  • To show – via exhibitions – the “highlights” of the collection and the work of other photographers, painters, sculptors, and illustrators.
  • To enable researchers to carry out their studies with more ease.
  • To provide support to new photographic projects by organizing, every two years, the HCB Award with an international jury.
  • To open up a debate on photography by organizing conferences, round-table discussions and screenings.

Henri Cartier-Bresson


Henri Cartier-Bresson was born on August 22, 1908 in Chanteloup, France. A pioneer in photojournalism, Cartier-Bresson wandered around the world with his camera, becoming totally immersed in his current environment. Considered one of the major artists of the 20th century, he covered many of the world biggest events from the Spanish Civil War to the French uprisings in 1968. “I adore shooting photographs,” he’d later note. “It’s like being a hunter. But some hunters are vegetarians—which is my relationship to photography.” In short, as his frustrated editors would soon discover, Cartier-Bresson preferred taking shots rather than making prints and showing his work.

HCB was a pioneer of photojournalism who took pictures taken on the streets with a small film camera and turned them into art. Cartier-Bresson, who was studying painting as a child, began his career in photography in the early 1930s when he encountered the works of photographers Eugene Atget and Man Ray. The camera was an extension of his eyes, and his way of working was to capture authenticity based on intuition and instinct. He, who said, “I am more interested in life than photography”, opposes any artificiality and instead of excluding directing, flash and photo cropping, the shutter is released only when the subject is perfectly arranged inform and reveals its essence, pressed. Therefore, the world of his work, which contains aesthetic perfection and everyday humanism at the same time, can be condensed into one word: ‘decisive moment’ in his works, we find a keen but warm gaze that looks at life and at the world.


Magnum Photos is an international photographic cooperative  owned by its photographer-members, with offices in New York City, Paris, London and Tokyo. It was founded in Paris in 1947 by Robert Capa, David “Chim” Seymour, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Ridge and William Vandivert, Rita Vandivert and Maria Eisner. Its photographers retain all copyrights to their own work.Magnum is owned by its photographers, who act as shareholders. Each full member of Magnum has a vote in proposals made at a meeting held once a year, called the Annual General Meeting (AGM). Photographers with the status of contributor or correspondent are represented by Magnum but have no voting rights. Full members can choose to become contributors after 23 years of membership; this status gives them increased liberty to work outside Magnum, at the cost of their voting rights.

In February 2010, Magnum announced that Michael Dell’s venture capital firm MSD Capital  had acquired a collection of nearly 200,000 original press prints of images taken by Magnum photographers. It had formed a partnership with the  Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas At Austin to preserve, catalog, and make photographs available to the general public.  In September 2013 it was announced MSD Capital donated the collection to the Ransom Center.A preliminary inventory is available for researchers who wish to use the collection.