Friday, November 26, 2010

When the hunter does the cooking

"Behind the Gare St. Lazar," Henri Cartier-Bresson, All rights reserved

The great Henri Cartier-Bresson, apparently as good at concocting bon mots as making pictures, once famously remarked : "I'm a hunter, not a cook." In other words, 'I shoot 'em, somebody else takes care of the rest.'

I've always wondered about this remark. OK, let's say Cartier-Bresson gives the film to an experienced lab person to process & make contact sheets. C-B marks a few frames, then turns the contacts over to editors who know good work as well as what they need for their stories. A skilled printer takes care of enlargements, which are then sized, cropped & laid out by designers. C-B gives his blessing & takes another sip of his excellent wine. Voila!


For me, shooting is always about chasing Cartier-Bresson's "decisive moment." My pictures never do more than approximate what I envision. (That's why I keep shooting.)

It's only the decisions that come after shooting (the cooking) for which I am able to feel truly responsible. Those decisions -- hundreds of them -- are completely in my control.

Right now I'm at work selecting & presenting a set of my pictures for a contest. It's a form of self-torture. Issues of self-esteem arise (maybe I should say self-hatred). Deep-seated fears of inadequacy threaten to paralyze. Despite my best efforts, my fears morph into fantasies of bias & corruption on the part of the judges & a kind of childish anger that there is no perfectly realized picture, no perfect justice.

I wish I could be just a hunter.


edg said...

I don't HCB allowed any cropping, but otherwise I think that's how he played it. He missed out, the best conversations always happen in the kitchen, at least at the parties I go to. Of course he didn't have a kitchen to cook in like we do.

Editing can be rough, i find it brings on serious procrastination, indigestion and all around discontent, at least for me.

HCB is a tough role model, like chasing Michael Jordan, pretty hard for mere mortals.

Chris Bonney said...

I used to worry about those things. Now I don't. It's what you end up with that counts.