Cartier-Bresson’s stuntman

This brilliant and influential master of the photographic arts is justly famous for his exultation of the “perfect moment” – the synchronicity of composition and motion captured with a single click of the camera shutter.

He would often wait for whole days in a location waiting for the perfect figure to wander into his frame at the exact moment when the sun cast the perfect shadow. However, it is less well known exactly how staged many of his most famous pictures are.

This example, “Hyères, France” from 1832, showing a lone bicyclist’s route following the curve of a stairwell, was attempted several times by a stunt cyclist friend of the photographer, who would ride past, pull an endo, then reverse. The perfect shot was ultimately achieved after over twenty failed attempts by the cyclist riding backwards into the frame.

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