On January 12, 2000, Helsinki City Art Museum opened in the Meilahti gallery an exhibition of photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson entitled The Europeans. The exhibition consisted of 185 black-and-white photos from the 1920s up to 1998. Henri Cartier-Bresson has photographed people and events all over the world, but he is first and foremost a photographer of Europeans. Accordingly, this exhibition presented Cartier-Bresson’s pictures of the people of Europe, spanning a period of more than half a century, from the ravages of war through the struggle of rebuilding to the diversity of today’s lifestyles.
Henri Cartier-Bresson (b. 1908) is one of the greatest photographers of this century. His work has inspired and influenced an entire generation of photographers. Cartier-Bresson’s on-going career has so far spanned six decades, although in the last decades he has tended to focus more on painting than photography.
Cartier-Bresson has said that photography for him is "instant drawing": the secret of a good photo is that you must forget you are using a camera. On the other hand, Cartier-Bresson has emphasised the significance of the "decisive moment" to photography: the photographer seeks to freeze movement at the precise moment when the various elements of the picture are momentarily in a harmonious balance.
Cartier-Bresson uses a light, fast-loading Leica. He uses only black-and-white film, never uses a flash, never stages his photos, nor does he retouch or crop them afterwards.
The exhibition was a part of the photo.doc series of events which is part of the Helsinki 2000 City of Culture programme. This exhibition was first presented at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, with the support of the Fondation d’Entreprise du Reader’s Digest (France).