My favourite photographer has always been Henri Cartier-Bresson. As a photography student I was introduced to his work and fell in love with his unique style of street photography. He co-founded the international photography cooperative ‘Magnum’ with friends and fellow photographers Robert Capa and David Seymour in Paris in 1947 at the end of World War II. It was one of the first photographic cooperatives owned and operated by photographers, and advocated for the photographer’s independence and the right to retain ownership and control of their work.
The free exhibition at Paris’ Hôtel de Ville, “Paris Magnum: the capital seen by the greatest photojournalists”, showcases the work of Magnum photographers over the past 80 years, from the 1930s through to the present day. The exhibition depicts the evolution of the city of Paris – from pre-war strike scenes and the Liberation, to the poverty and anxiety of the post-war years. Other significant periods referenced include the ‘swinging ’60s’, with the rise of ‘new wave’ and pop culture juxtaposed with the civil unrest of the May 1968 events. The expansion of Paris in the ’70s and ’80s, with the building of the Centre Pompidou, the Pyramide Du Louvre and the Grande Arche de la Défense, are also featured. The exhibition then takes on a different mood as we move through the ’90s to Paris as it is today, with its many faces and sub-cultures depicted in a more modern, and less-subtle, photographic style.
As I moved along the exhibition, I noticed the more recent photos weren’t having the same impact for me. The photos were great, but they didn’t seem to have the soul that the old masters’ photos did. While the exhibition featured the works of over 30 Magnum photographers, the work of Cartier-Bresson really stood out for me. His work looked incredible, and there is something about his black and white photographs that really leaves an impression. The Paris depicted in his photos came alive in this exhibition, and left me feeling as though I had travelled through time and discovered Paris in a whole new way.
Hôtel de Ville Paris
Place de l’Hôtel de ville, 75004 Paris