The Mind’s Eye

The Mind’s Eye is a great read.

Even if you’re not a photographer, it’s filled with all sorts of good stuff. There are a few small, poorly reproduced photographs; this book primarily compiles a variety of writings by Henri Cartier Bresson from across his career.

My passion has never been for photography “in itself,” but for the possibility— through forgetting yourself— of recording in a fraction of a second the emotion of the subject, and the beauty of the form; that is, a geometry awakened by what’s offered.

The photographic shot is one of my sketchpads.

Bresson is a master, in the truest sense of the word. His powers of observation are second to none; his ability to express complex issues through simple means is nothing short of astounding. It took me a long while to unpack what he said about Kertéz. It was more like poetry than prose.

Another great example are his observations about Cuba.

Here’s a short bit from that essay:

I confess that I am French and I like to look at the ladies. I was much aware that Cuban women have curves but on the opposite end and opposite side from where they are situated on, say, Miss Jayne Mansfield.

Since curves are curves and not politics, I sometimes made errors. One night I was walking along a hotel corridor with a friend. A beautiful young woman, in the room next to his, suddenly opened her door and popped out her head and other parts which might have given Miss Brigitte Bardot serious competition at St. Tropez. I asked who this might be. My friend answered stiffly, “She is in the Ministry of Industry.”

I might have looked amused because he added, blushing, “Every night she studies Russian books on industrial planning.”

Some things about Cuba did give me pause. There were, for example, the rifles. Cubans of the militia carry rifles the way a tourist carries a camera. Of the rifles, I will only say that when I must walk around a horse, I walk around the front end. When I walk around a rifle, I walk around the back end.

Bresson’s writing style is charming, and the book is filled with anecdotes about other artists, places, and life. It’s worth the small price that it costs, and more than worth the small investment of time it takes to read.

HCB of course then forced me to explore Pythagoras. It seems that Pythagoras thought that there were three classes of men at the Olympic games: the vendors who sold things, the heroes that fought, and the highest class of men— the men who watched.

I can only dream of having such “continuity of curiosity.”