London Culture on a Student Budget

Georgie Coupe brings you the final installment of affordable culture before the Christmas break. This week, she checks out Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour photography exhibition

This exhibition is a stunning exploration of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s black and white
photography displayed alongside photographers working with the medium of colour photo.

Cartier-Bresson worked mainly in black and white believing that colour photography was
inferior in photographic expression. The curator, William A Ewing has chosen to combine
the two types of photography by taking Cartier-Bresson’s challenge, “Colour photography
is not up to the mark: prove me wrong!”

The photographs presented all share the idea of being captured in ‘the decisive moment.’
Cartier-Bresson’s black and white images of Harlem, New York in the 1940’s are
particularly poignant displaying the poverty of post war America. The image of a ‘National
Lunch’ New York billboard of 1947 placed aside a soda stall in New York by Joel
Meyerwotiz are both demonstrations of the inability to afford food in times of economic
difficulty. They show both colour and black and white photography’s ability to portray
important moments in different time periods with equal impact. However Robert Walker’s
images of Time Square reflect vibrant colours leaving us to question if black and white
photography could communicate as successfully the excitement and vivacity of one of
New York’s most famous attractions. Much of Cartier-Bresson’s chosen photographs
communicate a slightly sullen perspective of New York poverty and much of the figures are solitary however Alex Webb’s Neuvo Laredo is a beautiful expression of human love. Is
colour a vital aid in expressing happiness in a photograph?

This exhibition is extremely enjoyable and can be seen as a sort of photographic
challenge. Questioning the master of photography, Cartier-Bresson, is an exciting way to
enhance anyone’s opinion of the medium of photography.

‘Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour.’
Somerset House
Nearest tube : Temple