Photography as “Right Action”
“A balance must be established between these two worlds: the one inside us and the one outside us. As the result of a constant reciprocal process, both these worlds come to form a single one. And it is this world that we must communicate. But this takes care only of the content of the picture. For me, content cannot be separated from form. By form, I mean the rigorous organization of the interplay of surfaces, lines and values. It is in this organization alone that our conceptions and emotions become concrete and communicable. In photography, visual organization can stem only from a developed instinct.”
– Henri Cartier-Bresson
Bresson inspires on so many levels. In viewing his work, I learn about structure, and sight, and time. In his words, I find resonances of Buddhist “Mindfulness,” and a truly conscious appreciation of what it means to be present in the moment. If we read the quote above as referring to samsara and nirvana (the “worlds” of suffering and enlightenment, respectively), another aspect of Bresson’s teachings emerge: his photographs, like Zen paintings, become meditation pieces, inviting us to see past the duality of ordinary perception – and awaken. Apparently, it’s not a stretch to connect HCB with Buddhism. In “The Mind’s Eye” Cartier-Bresson described Buddhism as “neither a religion nor a philosophy, but a medium that consists in controlling the spirit in order to attain harmony, and, through compassion, to offer it to others.” According to the New York Times, he “liked to say that his approach to life had been shaped by Buddhism. His wife, the photographer Martine Franck, described him to the Dalai Lama as ‘a Buddhist in turbulence.’” I like that. Me, too, Henri.