Part 5 Viewpoint – Project 2 Photography as Information

Exercise 5.3

‘Look again at Henri Cartier Bresson’s photograph ‘Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare’. Is there a single element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns again and again? What information does this ‘point’ contain?

puddle
Henri Cartier Bresson (1932)

I have seen this image many, many times. Sometimes in the context of art book collections, sometimes accidentally on an internet article feed and sometimes through directly seeking it out. In reflecting my own perceptions of this photograph and can say with complete conviction that my eye is mostly drawn to the leaping man in silhouette and his reflection. This for me is the pivotal point of the picture. But why is this and what information does it convey? The man is in the foreground and takes up a large part of the frame. We also see him twice due to the reflection in the puddle. Despite the fact that the figure is in silhouette, the edges are sharp – giving him prominence within the frame again. So what information does this pivotal point convey? The man is in a hurry and taking on the wetness underfoot in an energetic, somewhat careless way. We see no splashes but the area is covered in water. This is a very ‘decisive’ moment captured as the man takes a leap and this frozen moment in time suggests multiple narrative possibilities due to the context within the frame. Is he late for a train, running to avoid the rain, leaping to avoid the puddles, on his way home? This is where we can see the importance of considering internal context, external context and original context.

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