Henri Cartier-Bresson travelled to China in December 1948 at the request of Life magazine. He stayed for ten months and captured some of the most spectacular moments in the country’s history, photographing Beijing in ‘the last days of the Kuomintang’ and bearing witness to the new regime’s takeover in Shanghai. Then, in 1958, Cartier-Bresson was one of the first Western photographers to go back to China to record the changes that had taken place over the preceding decade. The ‘picture stories’ he sent to Magnum and Life played a key role in Westerners’ understanding of Chinese political events. Many of these images are among the best-known and most significant photographs in Cartier-Bresson’s oeuvre: his empathy with the populace and sense of responsibility as a witness make them an important part of his legacy.
»Henri Cartier-Bresson: China 1948-1949, 1958« allows these photographs to be re-examined along with all of the documents that were preserved: the photographer’s captions and comments, contact sheets and abundant correspondence, as well as the published versions that appeared in both American and European magazines. A welcome addition to any photography lover’s book-shelf, this is an exciting new volume on one of the twentieth century’s most important photographers.
Michel Frizot is Research Director at the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. Su Ying-Lung is an independent curator of Chinese and contemporary art. He is former curator at the Museum of Fine Arts of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and is the author of Mournful Morrow: Four Taiwanese Photographers.