I’m not interested in documenting. Documenting is extremely dull and I’m a very bad reporter. When I had an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 1946, my friend, Robert Capa, told me, “Henri, be very careful. You must not have a label of a surrealist photographer. If you do, you won’t have an assignment and you’ll be like a hothouse plant. Do whatever you like, but the label should be ‘photojournalist.’ ”
All my training was surrealism. I still feel very close to the surrealists. But Capa was extremely sound. So I never mentioned surrealism. That’s my private affair. And what I want, what I’m looking for — that’s my business. Otherwise I never would have an assignment. Journalism is a way of noting — well, some journalists are wonderful writers and others are just putting facts one after the other. And facts are not interesting. It’s a point of view on facts which is important, and in photography it is the evocation. Some photographs are like a Chekhov short story or a Maupassant story. They’re quick things and there’s a whole world in them. But one is unconscious of it while shooting.
Sheila Turner-Seed asks Mr. Cartier-Bresson about Robert Capa and David “Chim” Seymour.
That’s a wonderful thing with a camera. It jumps out of you. I’m extremely impulsive. Terribly. It’s really a pain in the neck for my friends and family. I’m a bunch of nerves. But I take advantage of it in photography. I never think. I set, quick! I hit!