Exercise 5.3

Look again at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in Part Three. (If you can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can see an original print on permanent display in the Photography Gallery.) Is there a single element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns again and again? What information does this ‘point’ contain?

Include a short response to Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in your learning log. You can be as imaginative as you like. In order to contextualise your discussion you might want to include one or two of your own shots, and you may wish to refer to Rinko Kawauchi’s photograph mentioned above or the Theatres series by Hiroshi Sugimoto discussed in Part Three. Write about 150–300 words.

I find it hard to believe that Henri Cartier-Bresson couldn’t see what he was taking when he shot ‘Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare’. The timing of the man’s jump is perfect and would have been hard enough to catch whilst looking – let alone shooting blind.

My eye is initially drawn to the white star formed by the man’s legs, the reflection of his legs and the ladder. This point illustrates the gap between the real and the reflection. Following that, my eyes are drawn to the reflections – of him, of the cemetery railings, of the man in the background and of the buildings to the left of the image. The blurred image of the man himself leaping is one of the final things that I notice.

My response is of a young lad running along the side of the Old Market Square in Nottingham. I could see what I was taking, and timed my shot to get the boy’s foot landing on the ground. My reflection isn’t the full length of the boy, and I have a ‘tick’ shaped gap between the real and the reflection. The boy is oblivious to what’s going on in the background – his main concentration being on his bag of crisps he’s eating.

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