How Tall was Henri Cartier-Bresson
Sometimes I find myself standing on my tip toes to get a nice shot when shooting street photography. This helps me improve the composition and eliminate distracting background elements. It reminded me of something I heard about Henri Cartier-Bresson standing on his tip toes. Was he super short, or was he doing this for the same reasons?
As I searched for his height on Google I found nothing, but then I remembered a picture of Marilyn Monroe that he captured. They were almost eye to eye. I searched for her height and she is 5 foot 5 inches. So I can safely assume that Bresson was around the same height. Man, I’m almost a foot taller than him at 6 foot 4 inches! Ok, so he was a little short, but why was he on his tip toes a lot?
I looked around the internet and finally found the video that I heard this “tip toe” comment. “Always on tip toes” I remember Bresson saying.
Here’s the video (below) and when you listen you’ll see that I heard it completely wrong. He wasn’t trying to get higher to clear up his background, he was only trying to be sneaky and not disturb his subject.
“…you have to be like a cat, not disturb, and tiptoes always on tiptoes.”
I can agree with this completely! I try not to disturb the subject…usually if I do the shot is not as good. I don’t find myself walking around like a cat though. I usually wear my sunglasses, so I can pretend to look elsewhere while I’m lining up my subject. Sometimes I dress up like a tourist (swim trunks, tank top, towel around neck sunglasses) so I can blend in better. As you walk around with your camera more and more, you’ll find that different techniques work better than others.
Here’s a video clip of Bresson shooting (below) on his tip toes to peek over boxes and get a better image. But check it out, he’s in a full suit. Back in those days everyone wore suits, so he’s doing his best to blend in.
Everyone has their own techniques and style of shooting. Bruce Gilden is always crouching down and using a flash. I like standing on my tip toes and shooting down on people to simplify the background when necessary, but that’s definitely not the only angle I use. I wouldn’t want to cripple myself like that. The ultimate goal is to have a great composition and an identifiable subject that captivates the viewer. Thanks for joining in today, see you next time!