In December 1948, Henri Cartier-Bresson traveled to China at the request of Life magazine. He wound up staying for ten months and captured some of the most spectacular moments in China’s history: he photographed Beijing in “the last days of the Kuomintang,” and then headed back to Shanghai, where he bore witness to the new regime’s takeover. Moreover, in 1958, Henri Cartier-Bresson was one of the first Western photographers to go back to China to explore the changes that had occurred over the preceding decade. The “picture stories” he sent to Magnum and Life on a regular basis played a key role in Westerners’ understanding of Chinese political events. Many of these images are among the best-known and most significant photographs in Cartier-Bresson’s oeuvre; his empathy with the populace and sense of responsibility as a witness making them an important part of his legacy.
Henri Cartier-Bresson in China allows these photographs to be reexamined along with all of the documents that were preserved: the photographer’s captions and comments, contact sheets, and abundant correspondence, as well as the published versions that appeared in both American and European magazines. A welcome addition to any photography lover’s bookshelf, this is an exciting new volume on one of the twentieth century’s most important photographers.
Michel Frizot is Research Director at the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. He lives in France.