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To discuss the contextual differences of two artists. To compare and contrast two images by two different photographers. The two artists I have chosen to look at for this investigation are Henri Cartier Bresson and Terence Donovan. To compare and contrast the two images I have chosen by these artists, not only must the images be deconstructed, but the artists background. The aim is to develop an understanding of why the photographer took the image, whether social pressures or cultural pressures had anything to do with the reasoning behind the image being captured.
Henri Cartier Bresson was born in the early 1900’s where as Terence Donovan was born 1936, which gave Bresson 30 years head start in his photographic career. Both artists lived throught World War II. Due to very different upbringing’s the images are totally different. Henri Cartier Bresson was a French documentary photographer whereas Terence Donovan was a British fashion photographer this is the most obvious and clarifying reason for the different style of photography. They both became inspired by the world of the photographic image in very different ways. In the 1960’s for example, the culture’s differences between England and France were huge. France where Parisians were revolting against the boundaries of normal society and Britain which was the height of fashion and culture.
Henri Cartier Bresson would have been considered fairly wealthy, in that era, simply because his was born into wealth, this gave him the opportunity to pursue his career in photography and the arts, which may not have been made possible otherwise. Bresson also had a full and extremely beneficial education, attending University, and afterwards doing his mandatory service in the French Army. Bresson matured both artistically and as a man during a turbulent cultural and political era. This is reflected in many of his images, because of his documentation of the worlds great events during his lifetime, such as Gandhi’s funeral, the final stage of the Chinese Civil War and many other great historical events. Terence Donovan on the other hand, was born into a working class family, but had a true passion for the photographic art from a young age. Donovan attended a school specifically aimed at improving photographic knowledge in young minds. After attendance at school and experience in a studio, he opened his own photographic studio and began image making.
Terence Donovan was born in 1936 just before the Second World War started, and took his first photograph at a young age. The bomb-damaged industrial landscape of his home town of Stepney, became the backdrop of much of his fashion photography. Terence Donovan achieved so much at such a young age. He had his own photographic studio by the time he was in his twenties. He became particularly distinctive in the swinging London of the 60’s. An era that can only be described as the first time young people wanted to be themselves. Terence Donovan had front page covers in magazines such as; Man about town, Vogue, Marie Claire, Nova, Queen and Elle, who were attracted by his versatility.
Donovan became far more personal with age and was much more expressive than at the beginning of his career when he was more revolutionary. However, he did not just photograph the era, he helped shape it. The youth of the 60’s was becoming far more outspoken and craved attention. However this was a static era in which models posed in prescribed ways. This was when and possibly why Donovan launched a defiant break from the norm of the time. With established standards of glamour and elegance as well as his close attention to detail, could be what lead to Donovan’s his elevated to celebrity status. Donovan was one of the first celebrity photographers, and became just as much as a celebrity, as those people he photographed.
Where as Henri Cartier Bresson was born in 1908 his career in the art’s began at a young age, but he did not discover the medium of photography until veiwing another artist’s work, which inspired him to become a documentary photographer. He did photograph some celebrities, such as Gandhi.
The two photographer’s differ in this respect, because Terence Donovan’s photograph’s made people famous, whereas Henri Cartier Bresson photograph’s made him more famous, rather than the people in his images.
Henri Cartier Bresson has a skill at envisaging an image, even when simply walking through the streets of Paris, his compostion is second to none, the rule of third is a compostional technique, captured in most of his images seems almost flawless. The fact that his camera is hand held, he manages to capture images, without camera shake, with good compostional skill, with the lighting being natural and without the subjects even realising they are being photographed. Once a subject realises they are being photographed they become far more formal and adapt and unnatural behaviour. The fact his subjects are completely unaware of the image being taken, makes his photographs far more pure and untainted and therefore even more spectacular. Especially so in this image, the couple being photographed are kissing, and are clearly unaware, if they were, this image would have lost its natural beauty, because the image would have been posed for. The small camera Bresson used when taking this specific shot, gave him the ability to get very intimate with this couple without there knowledge. In comparison Terence Donovan’s work is clearly set up and each photograph he takes he plan’s each sitter’s pose. In the majority of his portraiture, the sitter is making direct eye contact with the viewer, meaning the sitter’s attention is directed at the camera, and not elsewhere. Donovan’s photographs are always completely in focus which attracts attention. His photographs are artificially composed and are orderly which makes them even more spectacular.
One photograph in particular of Terence Donovan’s stood out in my eyes. His photograph of the well-known actor Terence Stamp is, in my view, visually stunning. His face is defined so clearly by the contrasting colours and the light is directed upon his facial features, this adds sharpness and obvious clarity. This photograph has masses of detail and atmosphere because of the negative space and the mood of the sitter. Terence stamp looks very aware, determined, and undisguised because of the bluntness of his stare. The light is coming slightly from the right of the sitter so shadows appear on his face which emphasises his facial features. The picture makes the sitter look demanding and as though he commands respect, this makes Terence stamp look iconic. Henri Cartier Bresson work is in it own right, iconic, because it captures culture and the time period in which it was photographed beautifully. The subject’s in Bresson work are not looking at the camera, which gives them a certain anonymity and disguises them. In comparison to the image by Terence Donovan, Bresson’s work has more detail, because it has a stage, a background, where as Donovan’s work simply has negative space.
A simplistic but striking image, His versatility attracted me, shooting in mostly black and white; his professional, intelligent style sets him apart from other photographers. His use of tone and the quality and depth of the monochrome he uses, particularly the gradations from light to dark, were so striking and iconic. Donovan uses two highly contrasting colours black and white; this makes his photographs look professional, having little or no bright colours makes the photo less complicated. His photographs have so much atmosphere that colour would be an unnecessary addition to his photographs. The same of which can be said for Henri Cartier Bresson’s work, who also shot in black and white, but because his images were on the spur of the moment, they engage the viewer differently.
His style is graphic but simplistic, so makes a big impact in an effortless manner. Having this style makes the photograph less complex and cluttered, having some negative space adds a sense of mystery, and makes the photograph far more dramatic. The crispness in all of Terence Donovan photographs add’s precise detail and brilliantly defined lines. Where as in Henri Cartier Bresson’s work is far more complex, he could not make people in the street’s pose for him, he had to be extremely patient to capture his images as well as being subtle. He was not able to pose people in the image, as he would have lost his entire ideology of capturing people in there natural environment which is what documentary photography is.
The images I chose represents both artist’s work well because it gives an insight into how exactly they created and captured there images and also gives an example of some of great street photography, and studio photography. As well as helping to prove that both artist’s socio-cultural identity did affect there work in many ways. Henri Cartier Bresson photographed very ordinary things of the time period, but because he was documenting an era, whereas Terence Donovan photographed fashion at the time.
The world in which these differing artist’s were raised and brought up in is definitely apparent in there images especially those taken in there native Cities, England and France. This exploration into both Henri Cartier Bresson’s work and Terence Donovan’s past and subsequently there image making helps substantiate that there upbringing and the social climate in which they existed probably made a significant impact on there work, and lifestyle.
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