Cartier Bresson -Soviet Union 1973


Lenin on the facade of the Winter Palace (Magnum Photos,1973)


Soviet Union: Cartier-Bresson 

The first thing one sees in the picture is the transformed Lenin, then the two humans. You might notice the gaze looking down towards them. It will take a while to notice the clandestine shadow and then imagine the watchers in the dark windows. The radio interception aerials on top of the building hide in plain view. This picture is stunning in the iconography, the feeling of menace, of innocence, of being squashed by the state and love of the father. It is just gorgeous and terrifying.

The image is a high dynamic range from the lights of planters, child’s hat to blacks of the windows and trousers. The picture has a deep, appropriate, DOF with Lenin sharp and the child and father fractionally fuzzy. The lighting is hard with very well-defined shadows. The shadow behind Lenin is very menacing like a separate entity, perhaps representing the state. The starkness of monochrome is perfect for this picture. If the child’s coat had colour it could offer warmth which would be out of step.

“The camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity. Henri Cartier-Bresson 1976″(Ang, 2014 p.p204).

This quote feels right for me. I certainly have and will continue to use my camera in this way.

Henri Cartier-Bresson (HCB) could not improve on this. The composition is stunning. Both parties are on thirds – the bright bobble hat of the child is almost on that intersection of the right and bottom third. The image is nicely cropped with an inferred diagonal creating interest between the eyes of Lenin and the child, as there is in the turn of the father’s head towards the child and the dotted white line on the road. Extraordinarily they are all in step with each other perhaps a reference towards the march of the proletariat towards a utopian dictatorship.

“I don’t invite my guests to root around in the potato peelings when I invite them for a meal”(Lubben, 2011, p. 18).

This is a really interesting comment, perhaps conveniently, as we cannot see his development of an idea unlike his Magnum colleagues as laid out in Magnum Contact sheets. Certainly in this image we don’t know how many times he “missed”


I am going to set myself a challenge to look for “scenes”.

One question though is this picture posed or perhaps more charitably he stood ready to take the photo. We may never know as HCB destroyed his contact sheets on a routine basis.

LP- Whether this is contrived or not, this is an inspirational image. I will consciously attempt to “see” shadows and reflections. I think I will need to ensure my inner model is attuned to seeing them.

I may have to be more patient in waiting. My style at the moment is to capture literally the moment. Perhaps I need to lay in wait for the image. (The mendacity of the camera!)

I don’t think I can bring myself to delete pictures that I have taken. So I think I have to reject that.


Lubben, K. (2011) Magnum contact sheets. New York: Thames & Hudson.
Magnum photos (1973) Available at: (Accessed: 11 January 2016).

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