Henri Cartier-Bresson and the “Maker” Versus “Taker” Photographer

I spotted this quote over at Photodoto and had to share it again here.

“To take photographs means to recognize—simultaneously and within a fraction of a second—both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one’s head, one’s eye and one’s heart on the same axis.” — Henri Cartier-Bresson

It was used as an intro to a post on the discussion “making or taking” photographs. We have had this discussion here and also on Flickr. Each time I have discussed it my thoughts have evolved somewhat.

“Maker or taker”, it’s not an absolute thing in reality, and I agree to a degree that “intention” is probably what matters. The photographer always makes the picture by pointing the camera in a certain direction, with certain settings and pressing the shutter. Then after the picture is “taken” it changes in post. One person selects hyper saturation, another black and white. One crops here, the other there.

I have been doing a lot of reading about great photographers of the past and studying their photographs. Even photojournalists told a story with their pictures. Selecting what to show and what to remove from the frame is in effect “editing reality”. As is selecting a telephoto lens to flatten perspective or a wide angle to exaggerate.

But in the end it almost doesn’t matter what the photographer intended but what the viewer sees. Everyone observes the world through their own filters. What might have taken hours of planning might be dismissed as trash by one observer while your quick accidental snap of someones elbow as you dropped your point and shoot might be lauded as the best thing ever!

I guess the important thing is do you enjoy photography and whether you get a kick out of (or for the pro’s, financial return from) the results?