The advent of small, fast, hand-held cameras allowed photographers to work with spontaneity, intuition, and accuracy. It also encouraged access to locations previously too dangerous or too difficult to enter with larger, slower cameras. The bullring was one such environment, from which even the most adventurous and athletic photographers had steered clear.
This photograph shows the inside doors of the Valencia arena from the vantage point of the bull; to make this picture of an attendant watching the action from a small rectangular window, Cartier-Bresson entered the ring. The complex composition reflects the influence of Cubism on the artist's work. All the major structural elements are fragmented: the arena doors are ajar, splitting the concentric rings into arcs and the number 7 into two abstract forms; the foreground figure is, in effect, beheaded by the door, his body linked to a faceless counterpart wearing identical clothing; even the attendant's circular glasses are awry, one lens catching the light, the other remaining transparent. The picture as a whole illustrates the avant-garde theory of simultaneous multiple vision and is a sophisticated critique of the bull's-eye school of photographic composition.
Through photographs such as this one, Cartier-Bresson forces the viewer to accept the disjunctive and mysterious as part of the modern experience of the world; we can never close the door, align the rings, reconstruct the numeral, or clear the attendant's vision.
Henri Cartier-Bresson; [...]; Nina Rosenwald; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, January 10, 1978
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 41a".
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Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Early Work," September 1, 1987–November 1, 1987.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.
Carrousel du Louvre, Paris. "Constructed Views: Photography and Architecture," November 19, 1998–November 23, 1998.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Few Are Chosen: Street Photography and the Book, 1936-1966," November 5, 2004–March 6, 2005.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Framing a Century: Master Photographers, 1840–1940," June 3, 2008–September 1, 2008.
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The Decisive Moment; Photography by Henri Cartier-Bresson. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952. no. pl.18.
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Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 194.
Henri Cartier-Bresson : the man, the image and the world : a retrospective. London ; New York: Thames & Hudson, 2003. no. pl.129.