Saturday, April 24, 2010

An unexpected visit to Fondation HCB

HCB's Leica, Paris, April 2010.

Getting stranded in Paris during last week's volcanic ash air space crisis had one grace note for me: I was able to visit Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, the modest gallery established in 2003 by Cartier-Bresson's wife, Martine Franck, and their daughter, Mélanie, to preserve the legacy of the master photographer's work. The foundation is tucked away in an alley off rue Lebouis in Montaparnasse, housed in a four-story artist's atelier that was built in 1912.

Two floors of the building house exhibition galleries that sponsor three shows a year. I was able to catch the last day of an exhibition of Robert Doisneau's Paris photographs, Du métier à l'oeurve. Doisneau's charm and sense of humor are on full display in this collection of 100 pictures of everyday suburban life in post-war Paris. The catalog of the show has been published in a new book by Steidl Press, entitled From Craft to Art.

Up a spiral staircase on the third floor, in an airy room framed by a large atrium window and outfitted with Corbusier chairs, a few pictures by Cartier-Bresson are on permanent display. Here, films and multimedia presentations about the photographer are screened daily. It is a room to relax in, and for this ardent admirer of HCB, a room to ponder the serendipitous way that he has found himself in it.

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